Hi everyone. So we've taken a nice long look at Brett Wallace, the big bat, and Kyle Drabek, the big arm. Now let's look at the third and lesser-known player acquired in the Roy Halladay trade, catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
d'Arnaud, who turns 21 in February, was a supplemental first-round pick (37th overall) out of Lakewood High School in Lakewood, California (which has produced plenty of major leaguers including Craig Grebeck and Damion Easley). Here was the Baseball America writeup on the righthanded d'Arnaud:
In several ways, d’Arnaud resembles his older brother Chase, a two-year starter at third base for Pepperdine, and Travis has also committed to play for the Waves. Chances are he won’t get to school, though, because he’s a more athletic version of his brother with premium catch-and-throw skills behind the plate and a more advanced bat. While he’s still a streak hitter, d’Arnaud has showed an improved ability to stay inside the ball and drive it to all fields. It’s a quick, line-drive swing for the most part, but he has shown some loft power, with seven home runs, and he ranked among state leaders in RBIs. Defensively, he grades as above-average as both a receiver and thrower, with a plus arm, soft hands and quick feet. While he’s athletic enough to play an infield spot, he’s too good behind the plate–consistently getting his throws to second base in 1.9 seconds–to move.
BA was right -- Travis never made it to Malibu. He was drafted by the Phillies and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League, where he struggled at the plate, hitting .241/.278/.348 over 151 plate appearances. Not unusual at all for an 18-year old kid just out of high school, particularly a catcher.
2008 was a nice step forward for Travis. He played in both the Sally (A) and NY-Penn (Short Season A) leagues (just 70 plate appearances in the Sally League) and put up very similar numbers at both levels, showing decent on-base skills, very solid contact skills, and decent power (25 extra-base hits in 267 plate appearances) for a 19-year old, finishing with a .305/.367/.464 line that looks even better when you consider the praise he was continuing to earn for his work behind the plate.
So, yeah, a first-rate defensive catcher posting solid offensive numbers in A-ball at 19? That'll get some attention, if not huge prospect hype. d'Arnaud climbed prospect ranks with his very solid '08 showing, and looked poised to go even higher in 2009, which he also spent in the Sally League.
d'Arnaud started the 2009 season at the higher level slowly, batting .230/.272/.378 in April and .165/.235/.320 in May. But he turned it on after the all-star break, hitting .302/.366/.473/.839 after the break, with extra-base hits in more than 10% of his plate appearances and making sure he remained among the Phillies' top prospects going into 2010, as well as one of the top 20 prospects in the League.
Travis will begin 2010 at the Jays high-A team in Dunedin and, while he's obviously some ways off from the majors, I think his prospects are pretty good going forward. He has always been regarded as a top-notch defensive catcher and has developed pretty well offensively so far. 13 home runs and 39 doubles is pretty solid for a 20-year old A-ball catcher - if you look at some of the all-star catchers of the past they didn't show much, if any, more power than that back in A-ball. While d'Arnaud's overall offensive numbers took a hit in 2009, and while he isn't really a particularly patient hitter,, his walk and K numbers stayed steady in '09, which is a very good thing. A defensive-minded catcher with the potential to be an above-average hitter is a very nice thing to have in your organization.
Welcome to the Jays' organization, Travis, and looking forward to hearing much more about you.