Scouting Reports, MLB ETAs on Prospects to Mets in Reported R.A. Dickey Trade

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 16, 2012

March 17, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Travis d'Arnaud (15) bats in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets agreed in principle on Sunday to a trade that would send R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. However, the deal was dependent on whether Dickey, 38, and the Blue Jays could come to terms on a contract extension.

The 2012 Cy Young award winner and the Blue Jays have now reached an agreement on a two-year, $25 million extension, as reported by Rosenthal on Monday morning. 

Since the trade will now play out as expected, it will be a seven-player deal with the Mets sending Dickey, catcher Josh Thole and a prospect to Toronto.

In return, the Mets will receive an absolutely loaded prospect package highlighted by Travis d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in the game, and right-hander Noah Syndergaard, another top 50 prospect. The Mets will also receive catcher John Buck and another prospect.

While landing Dickey will make the Blue Jays an even greater force in the American League East this season, the acquisition of d’Arnaud and Syndergaard is a huge get for the Mets.

The Mets’ catching situation has been dismal for the better part of the last decade, with the last notable season being Paul Lo Duca’s .318/.355/.428 as a 34-year-old in 2006. But with d’Arnaud, the Mets now have a borderline-elite catching prospect.


Travis d'Arnaud, C (Age: 23)

 A first-round draft pick of the Phillies in 2007, d’Arnaud was traded to the Blue Jays before the 2010 season as part of the Roy Halladay deal. After a quiet first season at High-A Dunedin in 2010, in which injuries limited him to only 71 games, d’Arnaud enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2011 at Double-A New Hampshire, batting .311/.371/.542 with 33 doubles and 21 home runs in 114 games.

Now revered as one of the game’s top catching prospects headed into the 2013 season, the 23-year-old was assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. As expected, d’Arnaud put up monster offensive numbers and appeared to be on track for a late-season big-league debut—if not sooner.

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending knee injury (torn PCL) in late June, though it didn’t require surgery. Still, it held him out of action for remainder of the 2013 season, and the organization opted not to send him to the Arizona Fall League. At the time, d’Arnaud was batting .333/.380/.595 with 39 extra-base hits (16 home runs) in 67 games. Following the season, I ranked him as the No. 8 overall prospect in the game.

When healthy, d’Arnaud showcases quiet athleticism behind the plate and moves well laterally. He’s become a more aggressive and efficient blocker over the last two seasons and doesn’t box as many balls as he used to. His receiving skills continue to improve, and he appears to give umpires a good look at pitches.

His receiving skills have continued to improve, and he should be a slightly above-average catcher at the big-league level. His best asset behind the plate is his plus arm strength, which aided his 30 percent caught-stealing rate at Triple-A prior to the injury. Since reaching the higher minor league levels, d’Arnaud has been praised for his feel for game-calling by both his pitchers and managers.

A right-handed hitter, the majority of d’Arnaud’s value as a prospect is tied to his bat. At 6’2”, 195 pounds, he showcases above-average bat speed and above-average-to-plus raw power. But unlike most young hitters, d’Arnaud has an understanding on how to utilize it with frequency. Yes, he strikes out a bit too much and could stand to draw more walks, but his compact swing is forceful and yields loud contact to all fields.

The only red flag with d’Arnaud is his injury history. In his first year with the Blue Jays in 2009, he was shut down in July with back problems. Following his breakout season at Double-A in 2010, d’Arnaud tore a ligament in his left thumb while playing with Team USA in Panama. And then, most recently, the torn ligament that he suffered during the 2012 season. However, the Mets have apparently reviewed his medical history and are satisfied.

The main question regarding d’Arnaud is whether the Mets will have him compete for the Opening Day job during the spring training or send him to the minors for a month or two to ensure he’s both healthy and big-league ready. I would assume they opt for the latter, as the inclusion of John Buck in the trade also gives them a decent option to open the season.

Either way, d’Arnaud will arrive sooner rather than later during the 2013 season, probably before the All-Star break. Along with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, d’Arnaud instantly becomes a potential franchise player for the Mets and addresses the greatest deficiency in their system.


Noah Syndergaard, RHP (Age: 20)

Selected in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft out of a Texas high school, Syndergaard made only five starts after signing for the Blue Jays’ rookie-level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League to limit his workload.

The organization once again kept the right-hander on a short leash the following season, though he did pitch at three different levels and even earned a promotion to Low-A Lansing ahead of schedule. Overall, Syndergaard finished the season with a 1.83 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 13 games (11 starts).

The Blue Jays finally scaled back the caution this past season in his full-season debut at Lansing, and the results certainly exceeded all expectations. In his age-19 season, Syndergaard was 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA, 0.3 HR/9, 10.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 103.2 innings. Not only was he difficult for opposing hitters to barrel, but he also showed a knack for missing bats with an advanced arsenal. I ranked him as the No. 41 overall prospect in the wake of his excellent 2012 campaign.

At 6’5”, 200 pounds, Syndergaard has a true power pitcher’s frame and the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher. An imposing presence on the mound, the right-hander uses his height to his advantage and throws everything on a heavy, downward plane. And for a pitcher his size, he also repeats his mechanics with consistency and understands how to utilize his legs and core strength.

Syndergaard’s fastball registers in the mid-90s with late life to the arm-side, and he’s edged triple-digit velocity in shorter stints. Given the explosiveness and angle of the pitch, he tends to induce as many groundouts as swing and misses.

His curveball should be another plus pitch, as it’s a tight-breaker with impressive pace and downer action. His command of the pitch still varies and will be challenged at higher minor league levels, but it’s sharp enough to fool plenty of hitters.

Syndergaard’s changeup improved over the course of the 2012 season as he gained a better feel for the arm speed needed to execute the pitch. It’s not as dynamic of an offering as the fastball or curveball, but could at least serve as a usable third pitch. If, for some reason, his entire arsenal doesn’t progress as anticipated, Syndergaard still has a high ceiling as a late-inning reliever.

As a member of the Mets’ system, I would expect Syndergaard to open the 2013 season at High-A St. Lucie with a chance for a mid to late-season promotion to Double-A Binghamton. At 20 years old, he’s still an incredibly young and inexperienced pitcher who needs considerable seasoning in the minor leagues. Therefore, the Mets will gradually ease him through the system while thoroughly addressing any hiccups along the way. Having said that, a late 2014 or 2015 major league debut for Syndergaard seems realistic.


New York Mets Top 10 Prospects (Updated)

My assessment of the New York Mets’ farm system was one of the first installments in my organizational top 10 rankings this offseason. But now, assuming that the trade transpires as anticipated, their top 10 will have a much different look:

1. Zack Wheeler, RHP

2. Travis d’Arnaud, C

3. Noah Syndergaard, RHP

4. Wilmer Flores, 3B

5. Brandon Nimmo, OF

6. Luis Mateo, RHP

7. Michael Fulmer, RHP

8. Gavin Cecchini, SS

9. Domingo Tapia, RHP

10. Cesar Puello, OF


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