d’Arnaud Gives Mets Player to Build Around

With news of the R.A. Dickey trade coming to fruition, the New York Mets organization will reportedly acquire the best catching prospect in baseball (narrowly edging Seattle’s Mike Zunino). Prior to the 2012 season, I ranked d’Arnaud as the 37th best prospect in baseball on FanGraphs’ Top 100 Prospects list — behind fellow catchers Jesus Montero (13th overall, and term used loosely) and Devin Mesoraco (17th), and just ahead of Yasmani Grandal (40th). All three of those catchers graduated to the majors in 2012; d’Arnaud definitely will be moving up on the Top 100 list that will be coming out this March, even after missing most of the second half of the season thanks to a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

The California native was also the top prospect in Toronto’s system when I released the Jays Top 15 Prospects list about a month ago. He has the potential to develop a plus bat (for a catcher) with average power. Defensively, he should be at least average and has a solid chance of becoming above average behind the dish. In other words, he should be a big upgrade over incumbent Josh Thole, who is coming off of a tough year and was reportedly flipped to Toronto in the deal. I did note, though, that when I’ve seen d’Arnaud play he’s looked like a “low energy” guy, or perhaps reserved is a better word. Despite that, all reports suggest he’s a good leader.

d’Arnaud immediately becomes the best hitting prospect in New York’s system and will challenge Zack Wheeler for the best overall prospect when I start breaking down the Mets’ Top 15 Prospects list early in the new year. With the trade of Thole, the catching prospect could open 2013 in the majors as the club’s starting backstop, although it probably wouldn’t hurt for him to receive a few extra months of seasoning back in triple-A, considering the missed time in 2012.

Although Jays fans will no doubt be saddened by the lose of the d’Arnaud, the organization is dealing from a position of strength and still has two catchers remaining on the Top 15 list in A.J. Jimenez (8th overall) and Santiago Nessy (10th). Jimenez is a defensive whiz with a fringe-average bat (for a catcher) who underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow but should be ready to play in April or May. He could be assigned to either double-A (a return engagement) or triple-A at that time. Nessy is a young, big-dollar-signee with big-time power out of the Dominican Republic and will play in full-season ball for the first time in 2013. He’s a ways away from helping out the big league club but also flashes solid defense.

In an effort to strengthen the depth in the bullpen, Toronto traded utility player and third-string catcher Yan Gomes to Cleveland earlier in the off-season for Esmil Rogers so the catching depth in the upper levels of the system takes a bit of a hit and would be somewhat worrisome should an injury occur to either J.P. Arencibia or Thole . The club claimed on waivers two catchers with big league experience this off-season in Bobby Wilson and Eli Whiteside but both were subsequently claimed when Toronto attempted to slip them back through waivers to free up some space on the 40-man roster.

The trade of d’Arnaud did not shock me. When I spoke to a club official about him earlier in the off-season, I got the feeling he was viewed as expendable… for the right price. Toronto’s starting catcher of the present and foreseeable future, Arencibia, is not a great offensive player but he shows above-average power (when bat meets ball). I’ve been told that the organization values him for his clubhouse presence, dedication to his craft and rapport with the pitching staff.

This deal has a very good shot at being good for both organizations as it positions Toronto very well to make a run at the American League East title or one of the wild card slots. It allows the Mets to continue building for the future and gives the organization an offensive player to go with some of its impressive young arms.

We hoped you liked reading d’Arnaud Gives Mets Player to Build Around by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Geoff
Guest
Geoff

As a Jays fan, I would have preferred to see another decent bat in the lineup. This still obviously improves our team this year but we appear to be that team that has 5 #2 or #3 starters as opposed to a legit ace. Although I could be completely wrong and Dickey could match last season’s display.

will
Guest
will

How does this Jays team need another bat? Their lineup is stacked, and deep. Bautista, Reyes, Melky (don’t forget he was part of the NL MVP conversation before the suspension), Encarnacion (monster 2012), Lawrie, Arrencibia (plus bat for a catcher). That’s an amazing top 6. Throw in some combination of Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus (who I believe in), Rajai Davis, Bonifacio, and Izturis. That’s an extremely useful crew of role/bench players. As this team is going all-out, they could try to sign adam laroche, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

Couple this lineup with great starting pitching (plus JA Happ as a 6th starter and a more than capable injury relief), and this team is going places.

Radivel
Guest
Radivel

Arencibia does not have a plus bat, even for a catcher. He hits it hard, but not often. He swings a lot, doesn’t walk. JPA is serviceable, but good? The Jays are crossing their fingers that he does better this year.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff

Melky – hmm, how much of his performance was possibly tainted?
E5 – expected regression.
Reyes – how many games will he play?
Bautista – can’t argue here.
Lawrie – hoping for strides this season.
Arencibia – not a plus bat.

A lot of ifs in the batting lineup, that’s all. Rotation was relatively deep before Dickey. I think a solid bat would have had a bigger impact for this team.

RationalSportsFan
Guest

By wRC+, Arencibia ranked 20th out of 28 catchers with 300 or more PA’s.

nilbog44
Member
nilbog44

I dunno If I would say JP has a “plus bat.”

commenter
Guest
commenter

additional comment regarding JP Arencibia

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya

Melky is too big of a question mark to be considered part of a stacked lineup.

Cidron
Member
Cidron

It may regress in some places, but given the depth, the regression will be minimized as the “regressers” sit, or play less in favor of the studs and those having break out years.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Depending on where EE plays, the Jays either have no one suitable to 1B or no one suitable to DH. Either way, they could really stand to pick up a suitable bat.

Radivel
Guest
Radivel

Dickey certainly feels like a legit ace at this point to me, and there are all sorts of articles about statistical analysis and trends for knuckleball pitchers that show he isn’t expected to regress greatly for some time. I’m excited about having him be a part of my favorite team.

Greinke, for 6 years, is receiving 5x as much money as Dickey is for 3 years. Compare stats over the last three years…

R.A. Dickey, 2010–2012: 91 starts, 617 IP, 2.95 ERA, 468 Ks, 150 walks
Zack Greinke, 2010–2012: 95 starts, 604 IP, 3.83 ERA, 582 Ks, 154 walks

But yet, Greinke’s average annual salary is about 2.5x that of Dickeys.

Any way you cut it, that’s a bargain of a contract for the Jays, even after the prospect cost.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter

I agree that he feels like an ace. From ’10 until the beginning of ’12, he was a very good pitcher. From the moment he started throwing the hard knuckleball, he became and elite pitcher.

I’d also have to think that the dome would help him out, as they can either open or close the roof whenever he starts (depending on his preference).

joser
Guest
joser

The dome is an interesting question. The fantastic New Yorker article on knuckleballers* said

Most knucklers agree that wind in the face is good (anything to add resistance and turbulence), while wind blowing from behind spells doom. Heat and humidity are welcome, unless you’re pitching in a dome; for whatever reason, the consensus seems to be that central air-conditioning can work wonders. Boston’s Doug Mirabelli, who catches Wakefield exclusively (knucklers often get their own personal backstops), has observed that the SkyDome in Toronto causes an extra hiccup per pitch.

Of course Dickey throws an “angry” knuckleball that apparently is rather different from the classic, so he may have a different opinion. (I wonder what he thought of roof open vs closed in Miami?)

* from a few years back, so while the discussion about the art is eternal, the details have changed a bit. Dickey only pops up at the end.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff

Thanks Brian, that was my whole point. At this point Lind will probably be given a shot and he did have a decent run last year after a stint in the minors but I’m not sold on him.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd

Why is everyone pretending Dickey didn’t JUST win the NL Cy Young?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Why are others pretending that he isn’t 38, doesn’t throw a unique version of a pitch that is extremely difficult to analyze when thrown normally, that he isn’t missing a ligament, and that he didn’t experience a dramatic spike in strikeout rate this year. That’s a whole helping of factors that confound our ability to project Dickey’s performance, so it’s totally defensible that people treat Dickey as less of a sure thing than other less unique pitchers.

Cidron
Member
Cidron

Alot of people have problems with the combination of “knuckleball” and “ace” together in the same sentence.

ZenMadman
Guest

Dude, Dickey is a legit ace. He didn’t just have a great year. He actually got better by pitching differently. And he’s awesome in a dome.