Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud (Photo by Mark Cunningham, Getty Images)
Travis D'Arnaud was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the supplemental first round in 2007, from high school in Lakewood, California. The younger brother of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Chase D'Arnaud, Travis put up mediocre numbers in the Gulf Coast Rookie League after signing (.241/.278/.348) but was much more effective in the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues in 2008 (combined .305/.367/.464). In '09 he showed some pop by hitting 13 homers for Lakewood in the Sally League, though his overall line of .255/.319/.419 wasn't special.
Included in the Halladay trade, he was plagued with back problems for much of 2010 and hit a somewhat disappointing .259/.315/.411 in 71 games for High-A Dunedin in the Florida State League, though he made progress with defense. Moving up to Double-A New Hampshire this year, he's having his best professional season despite the jump in competition, hitting .326/.395/.562 with 29 doubles and 15 homers so far in 313 at-bats.
D'Arnaud has above-average bat speed and a compact stroke. Although he doesn't have Arencibia-like raw power, he has legitimate pop and should hit double-digit homers with maturity. His plate discipline could use some tightening and he isn't a walk machine, but he keeps his strikeout rate reasonably low and has greatly improved his ability to handle breaking balls and changeups over the last year.
As good as the bat looks right now, scouts are just as high on his defense. His throwing arm is well above average, and he's ironing out some flaws in his mechanics that inhibited his throwing at times. He threw out just 19% of runners in 2008, but improved that to 30% last year and again this year. He is very mobile. His blocking isn't always perfect, but with more experience his glove projects as above-average in all respects.
In short, D'Arnaud has everything you want in a young catching prospect. A good dose of Triple-A would help him polish his defense and maintain his hitting progress, and barring something unforeseen happening to Arencibia, D'Arnaud should head to Las Vegas next year. However, by 2013 he'll be ready to challenge for a major league job, and his good balance of offensive and defensive skills will help him get it.