In R.A. Dickey trade, NY Mets get big-time prospect in catcher Travis d'Arnaud in return
No one doubts that the kid can hit. His 16 home runs in 379 at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas last season were inflated by the video game quality of the Pacific Coast League, but d’Arnaud’s bat excites every scout, coach and manager.
By Andy Martino / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, December 17, 2012, 11:25 PM
Super prospect Travis d'Arnaud, a catcher, is the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade.
Toronto Blue Jays' Travis d'Arnaud takes an at-bat during a spring training baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays, Monday, March 5, 2012, in Lakeland, Fla.
d'Arnaud hits .333 in the minor leagues in 2012.
When you have a young catcher with a bat this thrilling, you cannot help but wonder about his defense. You ask yourself if he will be devoted to his most important job, collaborating with a pitching staff. You hope that there’s a little Brad Ausmus in there with his Jorge Posada.
Dusty Wathan did not wonder for long. In 2008, as manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the New York-Penn League affiliate for the Philadelphia Phillies, he was responsible for Travis d’Arnaud, the first-round pick in his first full professional season.
Five years ago, no one knew how coveted the 19-year-old would soon become. No one could have dreamed that he would be traded for two Cy Young Award winners before catching a major league pitch — from Philly to Toronto for Roy Halladay in 2009, and from the Blue Jays to the Mets Monday for R.A. Dickey.
But Wathan did know that d’Arnaud arrived in Williamsport with a precocious ability to balance his two jobs. “He didn’t take his offense to his defense,” Wathan recalls. “That is when you can tell when a guy is young that he is going to be a good catcher.”
The Mets have made a significant wager that Wathen, and the many others who consider d’Arnaud one of the game’s top catching prospects, are correct. General manager Sandy Alderson agreed to trade the reigning Cy Young Award winner for a package centered around d’Arnaud and 20-year-old righthander Noah Syndergaard, an exciting talent but one who is several years away from sniffing Queens.
Slow down for a moment. The Mets. Traded. R.A. Dickey. A popular, successful player, who was willing to remain in New York for a below-market contract extension. It should not be glossed over.
So: This is a high-stakes deal, and a large measure of Alderson’s New York legacy rests on 23-year-old Travis d’Arnaud.
No one doubts that the kid can hit. His 16 home runs in 379 at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas last season were inflated by the video game quality of the Pacific Coast League, but d’Arnaud’s bat excites every scout, coach and manager. If no one is quite projecting a career like that of his childhood hero, Mike Piazza, few scouts see anything less than a very good major league hitter.
So what of his catching? One talent evaluator who has seen d’Arnaud many times in the minor leagues offered a measured evaluation.
“He’s got power,” the evaluator said. “He’s a bat guy, an offensive catcher. He’s OK back there. Look, he’s always been a baseball rat. He’s a really good kid, and he’ll be OK.”
Said another evaluator in an email: “Not a great arm. Works well with his staff.”
Wathan, who managed d’Arnaud again in 2009 for Single-A Lakewood, is a believer in all aspects of the young man’s game. “You could not ask for a better kid,” Wathan says. “One of my personal favorites. He comes from a great family.”
That family includes older brother Chase d’Arnaud, an infielder in the Pittsburgh system, and Wathan sees Chase’s example as important to Travis. It must be something, the skipper figures, because the catcher showed up at the New York-Penn League with a certain attitude and accidentally took it with him when he left for a higher level.
“Late in the year, we were very much in the race, and Travis got promoted,” Wathan says. “It wasn’t the same. Let’s just say that whoever we got to replace him was no Travis d’Arnaud.”
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