Last Saturday, rookie catcher Travis d’Arnaud was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas in order to fix his swing. Though it has been just over a week since his demotion, it would appear that the 25-year old prospect got the message. After struggling to a .180 average over the first two months of the season for the Mets, d’Arnaud has been tearing it up in the minors, batting .414 with 5 home runs and 10 RBIs.
Understandably, d’Arnaud was upset at being dropped from the major league ball club. However, he summed up his position in short, “I’ve just got work to do…I’ve got to find my swing. That’s all I really know” (Rubin, ESPN).
Since being promoted to the big leagues last August, d’Arnaud has not lived up to expectations. In 227 ABs, the highly touted prospect has accrued a meager .189 average. In those 70 games he has driven in only 14 runs.
d’Arnaud has had an interesting path to the major leagues. Despite being drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 amateur draft and asserting himself as an elite catching prospect, d’Arnaud finds himself with his third different organization. In 2010, he was dealt to the Blue Jays for perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay. Just two years later, he was traded for another Cy Young winner, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. With such a heavy price tag come enormous expectations.
The investment that the Mets made in d’Arnaud is not unjustified. Travis has succeeded offensively in every level of the minor leagues. In 2011 with the New Hampshire AA affiliate of Toronto, d’Arnaud hit .311 with 21 home runs and 78 RBIs in 114 games. In 2012 he was promoted to Triple-A where he .333 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in just 67 games before succumbing to injury.
It is no secret that d’Arnaud has struggled to stay healthy. Long and drawn out injuries have been common throughout his career, accounting for his delayed promotion to the majors. At 25, Travis’ status as a “prospect” is quickly fading.
This is d’Arnaud’s window to emerge as the Mets every day catcher. Right now the Mets are relying on career back-ups Anthony Recker and Taylor Teagarden, who form an unintimidating tandem that has a combined line of .190/3 HR/13 RBIs. Coming up hot on Travis’ tail is Purdue product Kevin Plawecki, who has been raking in Double-A Binghamton this year. If d’Arnaud does not establish himself as a reliable everyday player by the time Plawecki is ready for the big leagues, he could be the odd man out.
For the time being, d’Arnaud is the Mets’ man and his offensive explosion for Las Vegas is a welcome sight. The 25 year-old is well liked around the club house and by all accounts has the make-up to manage a big league rotation from behind the plate. If he can find his swing down on the farm, he will re-solidify himself as a staple in the lineup for years to come. It’s time to sink or swim.