Travis d’Arnaud is primed to make his mark with the New York Mets in 2014. After hitting .202/.286/.263 in 31 games for the “Amazins” last season, the catcher hopes to stay healthy and behind the plate consistently in Flushing.
While he settles in for his first full season in the major leagues, catching prospect Kevin Plawecki is getting ready for Double-A with the Binghamton Mets. A product of Purdue University, the 22-year-old is not far from the majors himself.
The potential for success is there for d’Arnaud—John Sickels of SB Nation’s Minor League Ball ranks him as the organization’s second-best prospect:
Travis D’Arnaud, C, Grade B+: Borderline A-. He really needs to graduate because I’ve been writing about him for a long time and fatigue is setting in. I expect he’ll be a solid major league starting catcher with power and good defense, although batting average/OBP may be erratic. We’ll just have to see if his injury issues are bad luck or something more.
Meanwhile, Jim Callis of MLB.com feels he’s the best catching prospect in baseball because of his offensive potential:
D'Arnaud's best pure tool is his above-average right-handed power, which he generates with a combination of bat speed and strength, and he could smash 20 homers annually in the Major Leagues.
There is optimism that d’Arnaud will put together a solid rookie campaign and start what hopefully will be a successful career with the Mets. However, Plawecki has risen through the ranks quickly since New York took him in the first round of the 2012 draft with the 35th overall pick.
Plawecki split 2013 between the Savannah Sand Gnats and St. Lucie Mets, posting a .305/.390/.448 with eight home runs and 80 RBI in 125 games played. If he has another strong first half with the B-Mets, he could finish 2014 in Triple-A.
His presence in the Mets’ farm system provides a good backup plan in case d’Arnaud doesn’t live up to his potential. If he does meet or exceed expectations, what does that mean for Plawecki’s future?
Currently one of the organization’s top prospects, it’d be a shame to trade him away after New York spent the time to develop him. However, if d’Arnaud is playing the way he’s supposed to be, there doesn’t seem to be room for Plawecki—unless it’s as his backup.
If Plawecki and d’Arnaud end up in the major leagues on the same roster, it would be interesting to utilize them as more of a two-headed attack.
It’s become commonplace over recent years to watch NFL teams have two or even three competent running backs to use throughout a season. Some examples include the New York Giants (Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs), Carolina Panthers (Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams) and Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael).
There is still one running back that gets the majority of the work, but it’s a useful tactic to keep players at an important position fresh for a potential playoff run. It’s a strategy the Mets could employ to keep d’Arnaud fresh for future postseason runs.
D’Arnaud is projected to have more power, while Plawecki is a hitter whose value is seen more in his average and on-base percentage. If Plawecki continues his success in the minor leagues and can hold his own at the plate and behind it in the majors, this could be beneficial to the Mets.
Having two productive, offensive catchers would allow Terry Collins to feel comfortable resting d’Arnaud during the dog days of August.
For someone that has dealt with injury issues during his minor league career, d’Arnaud’s production could be maximized if he starts between 115 and 130 games a year. Then, if the Mets make the playoffs, his legs will be fresh to withstand a run deep into October.
There is a lot of chatter about payroll flexibility, but roster flexibility is another desired quality to have. That’s why it’s so beneficial for the Mets to have as many pitching prospects as they do. Having flexibility and faith in both big-league catching options would be a rare but welcome sight.
Plawecki's future with the Mets is not blocked by d'Arnaud's presence. It would be an odd strategy to employ, but the organization could reap huge benefits if it handles both of these catchers correctly once they're both ready for the majors.
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