Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #11 Travis d’Arnaud


As requested by ravenous Jays Journal fans, we’re putting up a swarm of our rankings tonight! Up next, if there’s one player rated highly on our list who would surely like a chance to redo his 2010 season as a 100% healthy player, it’s one of the three pieces acquired in the Roy Halladay deal…..

#11: Travis d’Arnaud

Catcher /  22 years old / 6’2″ 195 lbs

Born: February 10th 1989, in Long Beach California

Bats Right  Throws Right

High School Team: Lakewood HS California

College: Had a commitment to the Pepperdine Waves before signing with the Phillies

Drafted: in the 1st sandwich round, 37th overall, of the 2007 draft by the Phillies, one pick before the Jays selected Brett Cecil

Signed: for $832,500 by Tim Kissner (Phillies)

Quick Facts:

  • Was part of the 2006 CIF SS Division 1 Championship team and his high school was ranked 8th overall by Baseball America his last year there.
  • Went home (from Dunedin) for 1 day to celebrate his 21st birthday last year, just before getting ready for spring training.
  • Travis Mattair and Justin De Fratus, both highly rated Phillies prospects, are two of his best friends and were the first to greet him when he arrived as a Phillies prospect.
  • He and fellow Jays prospect Anthony Gose were the stars for the Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies LoA affiliate) as they won the divisional crown in 2009
  • Made the NYP mid-season all-star team, the 2009 SAL mid-season all-star team, and the 2010 FSL mid-season all-star team.
  • Also was named the FSL player of the week on the 19th of April 2010, and was named to the 2010 post-season all-star team in the FSL.
  • I noted his hot start to the 2010 season, and that of Henderson Alvarez, in this late April 2010 post.
  • He was rated #81 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list pre-2010.
  • Ranked 46th on the top 50 prospect list decided on by Baseball America’s Jim Callis pre-2011, 37th on Will Lingo’s, and 33rd on John Manuel’s. Meanwhile, J. P. Arencibia did not make any of their lists, but the opposite was true for the prospect rankings, which had Arencibia ranked 48th and d’Arnaud outside the top 60.

Jersey Number#25 for the Dunedin Blue Jays



Stat rankings amongst the Dunedin Jays (regulars – more than 50 ABs):

  • Finished 6th in hits (68), HRs (6), BB (20), AVG (.259), SLG (.411), and TB (108)
  • 5th in doubles (20) and RBIs (38)
  • 8th in OBP (.315)

After being drafted and signed by the Phillies in 2007, the Baseball America write-up of Travis d’Arnaud pointed out the fact that some of his skills were similar to his brother’s, Chase d’Arnaud, but that he was more athletic overall. They rated him as an above-average “receiver and thrower, with a plus arm, soft hands, and quick feet”. That’s what makes d’Arnaud a potential MLB franchise starting catcher.

He has proven them right and then some thus far in his minor league career. He only has 22 errors behind the plate in 2044 defensive chances, has a .989 fielding percentage overall and had a .996 fielding percentage in 2010 despite having back issues, and threw out a career high 30% of base-runners in 2010. For his efforts in 2010, he was ranked 4th on the Jays top prospect list put out by Baseball America this off season.

Some fans, right about now, may be asking themselves why he was listed much lower on our list than some others. There are five reasons really, and here they are:

  • Reason #1, Back issues: anyone who knows anyone with major back issues knows that “recovering” from them is never a sure thing. When you’re swinging as violently and quickly as baseball players do, AND you’re working on pop times behind the plate, you’re always suceptible to them reoccuring. So, the injury risk involved within d’Arnaud’s future comes into play;
  • Reason #2, the forever under rated J. P. Arencibia: We love him and don’t believe that d’Arnaud’s bat will ever touch J.P.’s. Arencibia’s who also has better stats defensively than people give him credit for. He has had a positive Rctch for the majority of his minors career, while d’Arnaud has had a negative one. J.P. also threw out more than 34% of baserunners in 3 minor league seasons, something d’Arnaud has never accomplished. If scouts rate d’Arnaud’s arm as plus having thrown out just 30%, what does that make J.P.’s? Finally, J.P. had a .991 fielding percentage in AAA last season, coming as close as you can get to matching d’Arnaud’s totals in HiA, so we think the case is clear overall. Not only is J.P.’s defense under rated, but his bat could prove to be much better than d’Arnaud’s once facing MLB pitching, leading us to question those who rank d’Arnaud ahead of J.P. on many rankings lists. We love them both and look forward to a possible tandem in Toronto, but with J.P. about to get fully tested in the majors and getting at least 1 full season under his belt before d’Arnaud is ready, we can’t see d’Arnaud unseating him entirely in Toronto.
  • Reasons #3,4, and 5, Carlos Perez, A.J. Jimenez, and Brian Jeroloman. Not only does d’Arnaud face the daunting task of unseating Arencibia for playing time in Toronto, but he also has to beat A.J. Jimenez to the punch – the same guy who took the opportunity given to him by d’Arnaud’s injuries in 2010. He also has to beat Brian Jeroloman to the punch despite the fact that he may wind up as the backup at some point in 2011 if Jose Molina is dealt. After those tasks are complete, he also has to hold off  Carlos Perez from stepping over him, particularly if d’Arnaud has any injury issues in 2011 and 2012.

That, in a nutshell, is why we rated Travis d’Arnaud just outside the top 10 Jays prospects this off season, albeit as part of a very impressive group of prospects. We still believe he could prove to be healthy from here on out and become a franchise’s starting catcher (Toronto or another), we’re just not so sure that he’ll be healthy and will get the opportunities as a result to get to The Show as quickly and as effectively as most expect.

The injury issue is more serious than most people know, as is made evident in this quote from Travis d’Arnaud in an interview linked above, and here, with 1Blue JaysWay’s Jay Floyd:

"“My off-season program has been a very long process for me. Since I was injured last year, I had to go through vigorous physical therapy for two months in Laguna Hills, CA, with Randy Bauer. After that, I went to Fischersports in Arizona and rehabbed with Brett Fischer. Without either of those two men, I would still be in a lot pain. So for the past month I have been lifting lots of core and strength lifting such as squats, deadlifts, and push/pull lifts for upper body stuff. My main focus of all of my workouts was core. Now, I am in my “get in shape” phase of the off-season, where I lay off heavy weights and focus more on getting an ever stronger core and start my running, agility, and plyometrics. By the time spring training starts next month, I was to be in peak physical shape so my body can withstand a 140+ game season.”"

We will really be pulling for Travis to be 100% healthy with this new program in place and do wish him the best on that front. Having said that, we couldn’t avoid it entirely in our ranking and thus have him here in the #11 ranking, which is still a great ranking without this revamped and extremely talented minors system. I truly hope that he proves us wrong, beat Arencibia out of the starting catching role, and clobbers 20+ HRs to go along with a ton of doubles. If he does, I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong with a big wide smile on my face while I enjoy watching him go to work.

While his bat may not be to the caliber of J.P. Arencibia’s, it’s still what makes d’Arnaud even better than most catching prospects. He’s known to be an excellent RBI guy, hits the ball extremely hard, but is more of a line drive style hitter than Arencibia is. That’s what forces most to predict that he’ll hit somewhere between 10-15 HRs per season throughout his career. However, he does hit the ball very well to all fields, something that could result in a ton of doubles as he can drive the gaps in Toronto. His AVG, OBP, and SLG should all rate as average to slightly above-average as a major league catcher.

I would compare Travis d’Arnaud‘s offensive potential to that of Kurt Suzuki in Oakland. Here’s a summary of their stats as 21 year olds:

  • Kurt Suzuki (21, HiA): 441 AB / 122 hits / 26 DB / 5 TR / 12 HR / 65 RBI / .277 AVG / .378 OBP / .440 SLG / .984 FLG%
  • Travis d’Arnaud (21, HiA): 263 AB / 68 hits / 20 DB / 1 TR / 6 HR / 38 RBI / .259 AVg / .315 OBP / .411 SLG / .996 SLG%
  • Travis d’Arnaud (pro-rated to 441 AB): 114 hits / 33 DB / 2 TR / 10 HR / 63 RBI

The AVG, OBP, and SLG numbers are slightly lower for d’Arnaud, but I attribute the majority of that to his back issues in 2010. His 2009 line of .297/.357/.469 seems like a better measurement tool here to compare the two evenly. All-in-all, the stats are extremely close and Kurt Suzuki has become an excellent starting catcher for Oakland. He handles their staff extremely well, does well defensively and has maintained a decent .264/.322/.389 line over his career thus far. However, he isn’t an all-star catcher. That’s close to the expectation we have for Travis d’Arnaud, although we could expect a little more in the way of extra base hits if his new training regime pans out and results in a little extra core strength he can use to crush mistakes made. If he does pan out to be as good a catcher as Suzuki, I’m positive that the Jays won’t complain one little bit, as he’s a great catcher that the A’s are able to depend on day in, day out.

Another thing I’d like to point out about d’Arnaud’s bat is how much he crushes LHP. It’s both a great and bad thing, because we know that he’ll do well against Southpaws, but we also know that there are fewer Southpaws out there to go up against! His line against them in 2010 was .353/.365/.559 with 10 of his 27 extra base hits (8 doubles and 2 HRs) coming against LHP despite having less than half the ABs against them. Simultaneously, his line against RHP was a mediocre .226/.298/.359, something that could signify a weakness of his that other teams may try to exploit as he climbs the ladder towards The Show.

Hopefully d’Arnaud will be able to work on this and become more effective against RHP, because it could force him to a platoon role as a co-catcher on an MLB squad if he doesn’t sort it out in time. On a side note, J.P. Arencibia hits RHP extremely well (.322/.381/.691) which would tandem perfectly with d’Arnaud versus LHP (.353/.365/.559) since J.P. struggles versus LHP (.228/.284/.402). That tandem is a real possibility and a potentially potent duo in Toronto that could be present as early as in 2012 if all works out well for them between now and then.

Expected 2011 Team: HiA Dunedin to begin the season with a promotion to follow, or AA New Hampshire

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Starting catcher on an MLB team

There’s little doubt in our minds that Travis d’Arnaud will become a starting catcher some day in MLB, and that he remains one of the best catching prospects in all of MLB as a result. The Jays are just drunk with them,  a real luxury that they can’t take for granted until their talents prove themselves in The Show.  That same franchise catching talent and the health issues he faces are the only things we can see holding him back from making a great impact on an MLB club in the near future.

– MG

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