Please don’t get sexy: Travis d’Arnaud

The Phillies have made trade after trade over the last five years, sending hoards of prospects out to be developed by other organizations in exchange for established veteran pieces. When a franchise sacrifices well regarded players of tomorrow to aid today’s quest for glory, you can’t help but expect some of the kids to blossom into studs and make you pay for discarding them, especially when the prospect exodus reaches Gillick/Amaro altitudes. Strangely, this hasn’t even come close to happening to the Phillies yet. From Josh Outman to Anthony Gose, no former Phillies farm hand (I’m not counting re-treads like Ryan Vogelsong or Travis Blackley, just prospects) has done anything so impressive that we’re daydreaming about them in a Phillies uniform. Certainly, none of them have made their way directly into the flight path of your beloved franchise.

Now, both those things seem like they may happen at once.

Travis d’Arnaud is a New York Met, and while one player a franchise does not make, you’re about to see the young man that was the centerpiece of the Roy Halladay deal (trust me, it was never Kyle Drabek) 19 times a year. Let’s talk about how much that’s going to suck for a minute.

D’Arnaud is a very interesting prospect because he personifies positional scarcity. There’s nothing overwhelmingly impressive about his skill set. The bat grades out as average right now with some room to grow (I’d really like to see him simplify his set-up, especially by ditching the high leg kick) and I’ve had more than one source put a 6 on the power (I’d go 55, but we’re splitting hairs a bit there) thanks to great leverage in the swing and terrific hip roation. That’s a nice little start but it doesn’t scream “franchise altering bat.” Then you factor in d’Arnaud’s ability to catch, catch really well, throw well and that you project his body to stay behind the plate forever and suddenly we’re looking at one of baseball’s most intriguing prospects. Up the middle talent is hard enough to unearth. This is an up the middle player that shows you four average or better tools right now and still has some developing to do.

Yes, d’Arnaud has had injuries left and right. They all seem to be freak occurrences. It’s not something that I’d be overly concerned about at the moment. It’s a possibility that d’Arnaud possesses a fragility as general and well rounded as his skill set. I’d have only minor reservations about acquiring him.

When you head on over to the fangraphs leaderboards to look at catchers who wield an arsenal of skills as deep a d’Arnaud, you’re not going to find anyone who’s worth less than 3 annual WAR. This is a special player who I think is going to make some All Star rosters and maybe accrue some even more prestigious accolades if he has an outlier year or two in his prime. The jump from Triple-A to MLB is jarring, so I don’t expect him to make you jealous right away. But damn if I don’t think Travis d’Arnaud is gonna get sexy on us.

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27 comments

  1. Gio Gonzalez

    December 19, 2012 02:32 AM

    What, I’m not sexy enough for you?

  2. Scott G

    December 19, 2012 06:30 AM

    I know you said you’re not counting re-treads, but Baseball America had Gio Gonzalez as the Phillies #2 prospect in 2006…

  3. TomG

    December 19, 2012 08:56 AM

    Lotta talk about d’Arnaud’s physical abilities, here … Am I the only one who loves him for his mind?

    Just kidding! It’s totally a physical thing with me, too.

  4. JM

    December 19, 2012 09:30 AM

    How does d’Arnaud grade out against Joeseph? That to me is the more interesting question. Although, alot of Phillies retreads tend to come back and really play well against us….Michael Bourn, the aforementioned Gio, hell, even Burrell hit us hard as a Giant….

  5. Eric Longenhagen

    December 19, 2012 09:40 AM

    Bourn and Gio were oversights (to me, this era kicks off with the Blanton trade, but those two were close enough and god enough that I should have roped them in.)

    I’ll have full scouting write ups on ToJo and Valle later this week. Joseph isn’t going to make as much contact as d’Arnaud and because of that, isn’t going to fully actualize his raw power, the one area in which he is d’Arnaud’s superior. He’s also not nearly as good defensively. The questions about Joseph’s ability to stay behind the plate have mostly subsided, but he’s certainly not exceptional.

  6. JM

    December 19, 2012 09:52 AM

    something to consider…it took some special 1 on 1 instruction for Chooch to become the defensive back-stop he is. The Phillies tend to develop some pretty good devensive guys back there. While it is likely that Chooch was the exception, it gives me hope for defensively challenged prospects. When these guys get graded, how much of a factor does the quality of their coaches come in to play…

  7. GB

    December 19, 2012 10:20 AM

    Gavin Floyd could be considered as well…mixed record at the ML level, but overall a pretty decent starter that could have helped us

    That Gio/Floyd trade for Garcia may go down among the worst in recent Phils history

  8. Pencilfish

    December 19, 2012 11:34 AM

    We shouldn’t gloss over the fact that d’Arnaud has been traded twice without playing an inning in the majors. Maybe the teams know something about his ceiling that we don’t? He will turn 24 before next season, so he’s no longer a “can’t miss” player. If he doesn’t make it to the majors this year, it will be a bad sign. Also, by trading him, Toronto is stating that J.P. Arencibia (who became the starting catcher in 2011) is the present and the future, after only 2 years as their catcher. I don’t doubt d’Arnaud *may* become a very good catcher, but it’s a little too early to project All-Star appearances and other accolades.

  9. Eric Longenhagen

    December 19, 2012 12:18 PM

    If it’s “too early” to have an opinion on d’Arnaud’s future, it’s too early to have an opinion on everyone and I may as well scrap the college and high school scouting schedule I’ve made for next spring.

  10. Frank Reynolds

    December 19, 2012 01:21 PM

    I am fully confident that the Mets will mess this up.

  11. anthony

    December 19, 2012 07:26 PM

    Ok first of all, we traded Gio Gonzalez for Joe Blanton. That being said, I daydream about him still being in a Phillies uniform. Secondly, if you have seen Travis\’ numbers in the minors over the past few years, I think it is safe to say he will transition well into the major leagues. Consider this: Ruben Amaro has been trying to get Travis back basically ever since he traded him away. This guy is a coveted prospect that I\’m sure any organization would like to have on their roster right now. This is a scary thought considering we now have to face him 19 times next season while with the team we cant seem to beat.

  12. Pencilfish

    December 19, 2012 09:48 PM

    Being traded for Cy Young winners is not a predictor of future greatness. I doubt it means much, really.

    Pedro Martinez was traded for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. after his CY award in 1997. Neither player was exceptional. Roger Clemens was traded after the 1998 season for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd. Again, none of them became exceptional players.

    It\’s not too early to have an opinion on d\’Arnaud skills. He certainly projects to be a ML catcher, but it is early to call him \”special\”, predicting all-Star status, winning accolades (not sure what you meant–silver slugger? gold glove?), etc. He hasn\’t played a single ML game yet, and by the way, the Mets got John Buck just in case d\’Arnaud is not ready to squat against the Phillies in 2013.

    On a unrelated note, I am sure many said Domonic Brown is a \”special\” player, too. The Phillies even refused to include him in several trades, and so far Brown has failed to live up to the hype.

    Eric, your scouting reports are *very* valuable. I don\’t share your enthusiasm for d\’Arnaud just yet. This may change, but not until he plays 1 or 2 years in the majors.

  13. Bill Baer

    December 20, 2012 08:01 AM

    You said,

    We shouldn’t gloss over the fact that d’Arnaud has been traded twice without playing an inning in the majors. Maybe the teams know something about his ceiling that we don’t?

    My comment about being traded for two Cy Young winners was in response to that. I never said anything about predicting future success.

  14. Eric Longenhagen

    December 20, 2012 10:17 AM

    Anthony,
    Blanton was acquired in exchange for Matt Spencer, Adrian Cardenas and Josh Outman

  15. hk

    December 20, 2012 11:06 AM

    Pencilfish,

    I find it odd that you take the stance that you do with d\’Arnaud, yet you did not want the Phils to sign a top free agent starting pitcher because that pitcher might block Biddle and/or Pettibone.

    I also find it odd that a / keeps appearing every time some of us type apostrophes in the comments section.

  16. Ryne Duren

    December 21, 2012 08:31 AM

    i hope he turns out to be just as \” special\” as the 5 tool wonder dom brown.

  17. hk

    December 21, 2012 10:05 AM

    Ryne,

    Through his first 439 plate appearances that took him through his age 25 season, Chase Utley had an OPS that was 10% below league average. Through his first 492 plate appearances that took him through his age 24 season, Dom Brown had an OPS that was 10% below league average. Did you think similarly of Chase Utley after the 2004 season?

  18. hk

    December 21, 2012 10:06 AM

    The question should read, did you think similarly of Chase Utley after the 2004 season as you think of Dom Brown right now?

  19. Pencilfish

    December 21, 2012 08:53 PM

    hk,

    My position on d\’Arnaud is that he is a high-ceiling prospect who may become a very good catcher in the majors. Until he performs on a sustained basis in the majors, nothing else (except for his high potential)
    can be projected, but I agree with Eric that d\’Arnaud *may* get sexy on us someday.

    On Biddle, Martin, Pettitbone and even position players like Asche, Joseph, Valle, etc, I believe the Phillies should continue to evaluate and KEEP them UNTIL their value (whatever that may be) is LESS than what they can fetch in a trade. With an aging roster, some of the above mentioned players (and maybe others I omitted) may become meaningful low-cost contributors in the near future, so their value is high.

    The more prominent FA pitchers (Sanchez, Jackson, Lohse, etc) are good, but not great. In RAJ parlance, they are not difference-makers, and their value is debatable. For example, Sanchez has accumulated 14.2 WAR over 7 seasons, or only 2 WAR/season. He will get paid about 16M for the next 5 years. This projects to 8M per WAR. Contrast him to Halladay who has 63.1 WAR over 15 seasons or 4.2 WAR/season, with a cost of slightly less than 4.8M per WAR. Or KK who has 3.8 WAR over 6 seasons (0.63 WAR/season), so he will cost 7.1M per WAR in 2013. Lannan accumulated 7 WAR over 6 seasons. Assuming he gets all the incentives, I heard his salary will balloon to 5M, so his cost in 2013 will be 4.3M per WAR. This shows that Halladay, KK and even Lannan cost less per WAR than Sanchez. Why pay a 2 WAR player 16M/season? Even if someone like Biddle projects to be a 2 WAR player, he won\’t cost 16M/season for a long time…

    This is a *VERY* simplistic way to calculate value, and I am assuming each player will continue to perform as well as in the past, which is not always likely. I\’m SURE there are better ways to measure values, but the paragraph above illustrates my point, though others may differ on the conclusion.

  20. hk

    December 23, 2012 10:35 AM

    #1 WAR is a descriptive calculation, not a predictive one.

    #2 If you are going to use historical WAR to attempt to predict a player\’s value going forward, you should do so by weighting the player\’s most recent seasons more than the ones further in the past. Sanchez, in his three full seasons, which happen to be his past three seasons, has averaged 4.0 WAR per season. If you think he can produce the same for his age 29 to age 33 seasons, $16M does not seem unreasonable.

    3. If you want to use a player\’s career WAR, you should probably use # of innings (or # of PA\’s for a hitter) as the divisor instead of using # of seasons so that your numbers don\’t get skewed by partial seasons. Sanchez has accumulated .0169 WAR / IP while Kendrick has accumulated .0046 WAR / IP.

    4. Comparing what a player (Sanchez) got on the open market to what another player (Kendrick) got when he was under team control is like comparing apples-to-oranges. The comparison to Halladay\’s salary is also apples-to-oranges because Halladay (a) was not a free agent, (b) was willing to take less than what was perceived as his market value because he wanted to be traded to the Phillies and (c) signed his extension 3 years ago in a different salary environment.

  21. Pencilfish

    December 24, 2012 11:54 AM

    hk,

    2. Weighing recent seasons is a good idea, but it is hard to predict reliably how a player will produce in future years. Some players burn out early (ie, Scott Kazmir, Barry Zito), while others stay productive into their late 30\’s (etc, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan). Then there is the constant danger of injury. I\’m using historical WAR to show PERCEIVED value, which is the only thing a club can count on when signing a player.

    3. If Sanchez has 3.7x greater WAR/IP than KK, but Sanchez will get paid 16M vs. KK\’s 4.5M (a factor of 3.6), it means Sanchez is not providing more value than KK.

    4. Cost in open-market vs. team-controlled is irrelevant for this discussion. KK costs 4.5M in 2013, and Sanchez costs 16M/season for the next 5 seasons. That\’s all that matters, if you have to live within a fixed budget, period. This is even more compelling when you showed that Sanchez does not provide more value/dollar than KK. The Phillies only signed Halladay because he provides great value for the dollar. Don\’t delude yourself into thinking it would have happened otherwise.

    The one issue you haven\’t addressed yet is flexibility. Signing Sanchez to a 5-yr contract restricts that flexibility. If we had signed Sanchez (or Lohse, Jackson, etc), and we are a player short come July 31st, what would you do to help the Phillies make it the post-season if you are already max-ed out?

    If needed, the Phillies can trade Young, Lannan or Adams, etc for a player they need in a pennant race. Remove them and add Sanchez. Who would you trade (without weakening the core roster) to help in a pennant race? Galvis, Frandsen, Ruf, Brown, a young bullpen piece, or a promising minor-leaguer?

    I think RAJ is doing exactly the right moves by avoiding high-priced FA so far this off-season.

  22. hk

    December 24, 2012 02:53 PM

    Pencilfish,

    2. I don\’t doubt that it is hard to reliably predict future WAR based on past WAR. I was just pointing out that it probably just makes more sense to use recent seasons than a player\’s entire career.

    3. I was making the point that, if you ignore point #2 above and insist on using a player\’s full career, WAR/IP at least reduces the impact of partial seasons when compared to WAR/Season. Again, I prefer to use the last 3 seasons, especially when we are talking about players of similar age and career length. In the case of Sanchez and Kendrick, Sanchez accumulated 12 WAR from 2010-2012 over 587 IP while Kendrick accumulated 2 WAR over 454 2/3 IP, so Sanchez accumulated 6 times as much WAR and 4.65 times as much WAR/IP as Kendrick in the last 3 seasons.

    You are right that I did not address flexibility if the Phils had Sanchez instead of Young, Adams and Lannan. Following is my assessment of the issue as it pertains to each of them:

    Young: If the Phils are in a pennant race and Young is playing well, why would they want to trade him? If he\’s not playing well, there won\’t be a market for him.

    Adams: Similar to Young, if the Phils are in a pennant race and Adams is pitching well, why would they want to trade him? And, if Adams declines further in 2013, I can\’t imagine any team would trade for him and the $8M that he\’ll be due from the trading deadline through the 2014 season.

    Lannan: In your scenario, the Phils are in a pennant race and are in a position to trade their 5th starter Lannan. In my scenario, the Phils are in a pennant race and are in a position to trade their 5th starter, which happens to be Kendrick. What\’s the difference?

    You also fail to address flexibility or a back-up plan in case Halladay falters or is injured for a significant part of 2013. In your scenario, you have to go acquire a #3 starter by trade or free agency in the off-season whereas in my scenario, you already have one.

    The bottom line is I believe that RAJ paid more $ for the WAR that he will get from Young, Adams and Lannan than Detroit paid for the WAR that they will get from Sanchez, not to mention that Young also cost the Phillies a couple of young, cost controlled arms.

  23. Pencilfish

    December 25, 2012 01:16 PM

    hk,

    Actually flexibility can be addressed by in-house options:

    Aumont or De Fratus for Adams
    Frandsen or Galvis for Young
    Cloyd or minor leaguer for Lannan

    That\’s what I meant by possibly trading one or more of them in mid-season. If Halladay faulters, the Phillies have to find a replacement, I agree. They can address it in: a) mid-season by trading one of the above players OR b) next off-season. If Halladay is playing well, the Phillies can still trade one of them to acquire a bat. Sanchez can only serve as Halladay\’s replacement, as you pointed out. What would you do if the Phillies need a power OF bat in July? It seems your only option is to trade young, controllable players.

    Also, there appears to be good FA pitchers available next off-season if we don\’t re-sign Halladay. Wainright and Lincecum come to mind.

  24. hk

    December 25, 2012 04:09 PM

    It\’s pretty silly to expect the Phils to be in a position to trade Mike Adams, Michael Young or even John Lannan at next year\’s trade deadline and replace them with the young players you list for the stretch run. If they don\’t trust those young players to start the season in those roles, what makes you think they\’d trust them in those roles in August and September? Actually, don\’t answer. Let\’s just agree to disagree…

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