Who: Travis d’Arnaud, No. 15. Catcher. Hits right, throws right. 6’2, 195 LBS. 23 years old. Five minor league seasons in the systems of the Phillies and Blue Jays.
Provenance: Long Beach, California. Drafted in the first round (supplemental) of the 2007 amateur draft by Philadelphia. Acquired by Toronto with a bunch of other guys in exchange for Roy Halladay.
Prospect Ratings: Ranked 26th best prospect in the game by John Sickels, 17th by Baseball America, 16th by Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus, and 6th by ESPN’s Keith Law.
Other Notable Skills: Master of the “Oppo Taco”.
2011 Stats: .311 AVG, .371 OBP, .542 SLG, .914 OPS in 114 games at Double-A New Hampshire. Won Eastern League MVP, and named as Topps Double-A All Star.
Using Counting Stats for Perspective: Ranked 12th in runs, 13th in doubles, fourth in homers, 6th in total bases in the Eastern League as a catcher. His OPS was also good enough for fourth overall in the league.
Looking Back: It didn’t take long for distant tales of Travis d’Arnaud’s exploits to begin to seep into our consciousness after he was acquired in the Halladay deal.
While Kyle Drabek and Brett Wallace (‘memba him?) were the marquee parts of the deal, we heard within that first spring of how d’Arnaud might turn out to be the real find.
Of course, we’ve heard many a tale of the “Catcher of the Future”, so we attempted to temper any such expectations initially. d’Arnaud’s first season in the system was a fairly pedestrian one in the Florida State League. Even though the elements and parks in that circuit are known to deflate offensive numbers, it’s hard to stare at a .726 OPS in an injury-shortened season in Dunedin and figure that it will sprout into something more grand. The thought of him as a “catch-and-throw guy” started to settle its way into our thought process.
Move ahead to 2011, and d’Arnaud’s offensive explosion at Double-A was a bit of a revelation. Sure, he’s played well before, but to add 180 points of OPS while moving up a level was a remarkable feat. Moreover, d’Arnaud received a season of tutelage from former catcher Sal Fasano, which we would imagine can only help him going forward.
Looking Forward: J.P. Arencibia’s rookie season and the acquisition of Jeff Mathis have likely penned in d’Arnaud to a role in Triple-A Las Vegas. This is perfectly reasonable, as an added year of seasoning can only help d’Arnaud’s progress. At the same time, it will be quite a task for Jays fans to hold their breath and wait for d’Arnaud, especially if he posts outrageously inflated numbers in the offensive environments of the Pacific Coast League.
Last year, the Jays managed to get through an entire season using just two catchers, which is pretty amazing when you think about the beating that they take. Is it plausible that they could manage such a feat two years in a row? At present, the Jays have only those three catchers on their 40-man roster. Should an opening arise due to injury early in the season, it will be interesting to see whether if the Jays prefer to find anyone else to fill the void. They could lean back on Brian Jeroloman, who is still in camp as a non-roster invitee.
But if it is Arencibia who misses any amount of time, we wouldn’t be surprised to see d’Arnaud eased into a role on the major league club. As much as everyone professes to love Jeff Mathis, it’s hard to conceive of him as an everyday starter for an extended period of time.
2012 Expectations: At the very least, we expect that we’ll see Travis d’Arnaud in September of 2012. But we have a sneaking suspicion that the Jays would love to take any opportunity to bring him up if they get the chance. Part of his process over the next two years will involve getting to know the team, the staff, the pitchers and the standard operating procedures. With that in mind, d’Arnaud’s apprenticeship might be advanced more effectively in Toronto.
In either case, there are few players outside of the 25-man roster who will be monitored as closely this year.