Since Paul Lo Duca’s brief stint with the Mets in 06 and 07, and Mike Piazza for seasons prior, the Mets have had a revolving door of mediocre fillers behind the plate. From Brian Schneider to Rod Barajas to Josh Thole, the biggest position of need for the Mets over the past few seasons has arguably been catcher. When Travis d’Arnaud was called up towards the end of 2013, immediate speculation began as to whether he would become an anchor for the pitching staff and a solid hitting catcher. While he struggled mightily at the beginning of the 2014 season, even warranting a demotion, he returned with a vengeance and has begun to overcome doubters and has Mets fans and front office hesitantly writing off the catching position as a position of strength, rather than need, going forward.
d’Arnaud’s first half of the 2014 season was horrendous. He got off to a slow start, and never recovered, ending with a pre all-star game slash line of .217/.292/.354. The one encouraging factor of this span of poor hitting was the difference between his batting average and on base percentage. Although hitting a putrid .217, d’Arnaud managed an on-base percentage 75 points higher, proving optimistic for a future as a patient hitter with the ability to get on base. The other minor positive from d’Arnaud’s first half was the home run power he displayed. His 6 home runs in 189 at bats projected for 15 to 20 home runs in a full season, above average for a catcher. His production during this span was still extremely disappointing, and had every spectator doubting his ability to remain an everyday catcher.
After returning from AAA, the view regarding d’Arnaud took a complete 180, with the 25 year old’s production far surpassing that of his first half. Not only did d’Arnaud looked better on the stat sheet, but he was far more impressive to the eye as well. In August against the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Dodgers, he hit 2 home runs to the deepest part of the ballpark, the right center field gap, a very encouraging contrast to his earlier performance. Until those flashes of power, most if not all of d’Arnaud home runs had been pulled to left field. A major part of d’Arnaud becoming a well rounded hitter is developing power to all fields. Thus, the spraying of extra base hits to various parts of the ballpark was one of the most exciting aspects of d’Arnaud’s second half resurrection.
His second half stats also backed up his improvement in the eye test, as he is hit a much improved .265/.313/.474 in the second half. In only 7 more at bats, d’Arnaud surpassed his extra base hit production from the first half in every category. (doubles, triples, and home runs) His batting average continued to climb with each successful series, and is nearing a respectable .250 for a catcher by season’s end. The hope is that he can improve to become a consistent .250 hitter or better in future seasons, which would make him an above average catcher if he displays the same power and pitch framing that he has thus far in the majors.
The Mets can confidently chalk up d’Arnaud next to Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares as young players who have filled positions of need, which also makes Kevin Plawecki expendable and a possible major piece in filling one of the last few holes on the roster. As the Mets as a whole continue to improve, d’Arnaud will be a major part of the team’s success, playing a huge role in the field, and likely being relied upon to drive in plenty of runs, while hitting near the heart of the order. If his second half production is any indication, Mets fans need no longer worry about the state of the position behind home plate.