Among position players on the 2014 Mets, perhaps the most important is catcher Travis d’Arnaud. That’s not to say he’s likely to be the best Mets batter in 2014 – that should still be face-of-the-franchise David Wright. It’s just that d’Arnaud’s development is a bigger story with more uncertainty.
Wright needs another above average player or two to help him out, if the Mets are going to contend in the near term. Daniel Murphy has been solid enough at second base in recent years, and the Mets paid to upgrade the outfield this season. However, D’Arnaud is the Mets’ best chance to become the B to David Wright’s A, and do so cheaply. Since the Mets control d’Arnaud for six more years, if he does live up to the hype, or even become an elite catcher, it will change the franchise’s outlook.
Kristie Ackert has a nice profile of d’Arnaud in the New York Daily News. He discusses the fact that he was not quite fully comfortable when he was in the big leagues last year:
“Anxious would probably be the right word for it,” said d’Arnaud, who turns 25 on Monday. “I was just trying to impress everyone. Every time I went up there, I was trying to hit a home run. I was trying to throw my hardest and hit my hardest to prove myself every time I got a chance. I was trying to prove myself and I just wasn’t myself.”
Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released their weighted means PECOTA forecast spreadsheet for the 2014 season. PECOTA, one of the top forecasting systems sees d’Arnaud hitting .250/.315/.414 with a 2 WARP. His top comps are Ryan Lavarnway, Devin Mesoraco and Geovany Soto. One of the nice things with the full PECOTA projections, which will be out later, are the forecast ranges from the the 10th percentile to the 90th.
Fangraphs’ ZiPS saw .245/.307/.392 with a 7.4% walk rate and a 24.1% strikeout rate. ZiPS’ rounded WAR forecast for catcher, added d’Arnaud to Anthony Recker suggested that the catcher position would be worth 3 WAR, tied for the second-best among the Mets’ positions behind Wright at third and even with Chris Young’s contribution in rightfield.
The other projections at Fangraphs are similar enough: Steamer (.254/.320/.418 – 2.6 WAR) and Oliver (.241/.312/.397 – 3.1 WAR). The WAR projection in Oliver is higher because the system sees d’Arnaud picking up more at bats (600) than Steamer (431) and being worth more defensively (13.3 to 7.2).
Basically, all of the projection systems see d’Arnaud as a useful starting catcher in 2014. The Mets hope for more.