Saturday, January 7, 2012

Follow the Figure 8: The D'Arnaud Connection

Imagine a figure 8.  The path it forms is indicative of the D'Arnaud brother's paths in baseball.  At the bottom is the beginning of the figure 8, and it symbolizes the two brothers growing up together in the same household and playing baseball. Then the figure 8 diverges as Travis D'Arnaud did not follow his brother Chase to Pepperdine but instead chose to sign with the Phillies organization out of high school.  Chase was later drafted by Pittsburgh and the two paths begin to bend back in towards each other.  They converged at the center of the 8 as the two brothers had the opportunity to play on the same team as South Atlantic League Northern Division All-Stars. After that, the paths of the brothers diverged again as Travis was traded to the Toronto organization. From there, the figure 8 continued to form as Chase made the major leagues with the Pirates last year, starting the curve back towards the finished top of the figure 8.  Soon, Travis will join his brother in the major leagues and the figure 8 will be complete.

Travis (written by Ginger Snowflake)
Travis d’Arnaud was born in Lakewood California on February 10th, 1989 about a month after his older brother Chase had turned two. He was drafted 37th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school in 2007 and signed for $837,500. By signing with the Phillies, he chose to forgo his commitment to Pepperdine University, along with the chance to play there with his brother.

Travis began his professional career in 2007, playing for the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League affiliate and batting .241/.278/.348 in 41 games. His numbers improved in 2008, playing in the New York-Penn League (.309/.371/.463 in 48 games) and South Atlantic League (.297/.357/.469 in 16 games).  He played the entire 2009 season in the South Atlantic league, putting up a line of .255/.319/.419 and 13 home runs in 126 games for the Lakewood BlueClaws.  Travis's season earned him a mid-season All-Star bid, where he played alongside his brother Chase, arriving at the middle of the figure 8.

In December of 2009, Travis d’Arnaud was packaged along with pitcher Kyle Drabek and outfielder Michael Taylor (who was flipped to Oakland for first baseman Brett Wallace, who was then flipped to the Astros for centre fielder Anthony Gose) and sent to the Blue Jays for ace Roy Halladay in the trade that first made me start paying attention to the Blue Jays farm system. At the time of the trade, Drabek was seen as the best prospect the Jays received for Halladay, though d’Arnaud has almost certainly overtaken that spot two years later.

Travis’ first year in the Blue Jays system was plagued by back injuries. He played in 71 games for A+ Dunedin and hit .259/.315/.411 with six home runs. During the same year, catcher JP Arencibia was playing for AAA Las Vegas, and winning the PCL Player of the Year award. Most Jays fans were not paying much attention to the catcher they received for Roy Halladay.

In 2011, that changed very quickly. D’Arnaud played 114 games for AA New Hampshire, putting up a line of .311/.371/.542 with 21 home runs in the process. He was named to the Eastern League’s All Star team in July and won the Eastern League MVP award at the end of August. He went on the help the Fisher Cats win the Eastern League championship in 2011, and was named to team USA in the Baseball World Cup.

Travis d’Arnaud’s defensive skills and his ability to hit for average mean that he is likely to steal JP Arencibia’s job sometime during 2012 (many Jays prospects skip AAA altogether, or spend very little time there) or at the beginning of the 2013 season, if everything continues to go well for him. All in all it’s a great problem for the Jays to have: they should be able to get a decent return for Arencibia in a trade, and have the better defensive and hitting catcher in d’Arnaud remain with the team.
What d’Arnaud does in the early part of 2012 will be interesting to watch. I fully expect to see him crack the Blue Jays line-up sometime this season.  From there, the sky is the limit for Travis, a potential All-Star catcher who will probably end up as the better of the two D'Arnaud brothers.

Chase D'Arnaud was born on January 21, 1987.  In 2005, Chase graduated high school and then became a Pepperdine Wave where he played baseball starting in the spring of 2006.  In 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected D'Arnaud in the 4th round and paid him $293,000 to forgo his senior season at Pepperdine. D'Arnaud was able to play in 2008 at State College, and put up a solid .756 OPS in 183 PA's. 

The next season, he joined his brother Travis in the South Atlantic League, playing for West Virginia.  At West Virginia, he put up a .291/.394/.427 line, showing excellent plate discipline with 30 walks to 31 strikeouts in 213 AB's.  That performance earned Chase a trip to the All-Star game where he played with his brother, Travis, as the two met at the middle of the figure 8.  Shortly after the game, the two brothers saw their paths diverge as Chase was promoted to then High-A Lynchburg.  There, Chase finished up the season on an even stronger note, posting a .295/.402/.481 line over 210 AB's. 

In 2010, Chase D'Arnaud had a down year, playing the entire season at AA Altoona.  There he only posted a .708 OPS.  Still, Chase was promoted to AAA starting in 2011, and he posted a slightly better but still mediocre .717 OPS before being promoted to Pittsburgh in late August.  In Pittsburgh he hit poorly, with only a .529 OPS.  Chase did create excitement on the basepaths, stealing 12 bases while only being caught 2 times.  It that's speed, along with his arm, that are Chase's two plus tools.

Those tools should allow him to stick at SS, with a glove that's around average.  Only 24, Chase does still have upside, so take his numbers the last two seasons with a grain of salt.  He walked at a good clip at the lower levels, and as he matures, his plate discipline could improve, allowing him to post solid OBP numbers, even if he only hits .270.  He does have the bat speed to hit for a decent average, in that .270-.280 range, and Chase also has the strength to hit for average power if he learns to turn on inside pitches.  All in all, Chase can be an average shortstop, which won't be as valuable as his brother Travis who projects as an All-Star catcher.  Still, an average shortstop is nothing to sneeze at, especially one that is team and cost controlled for the next several years.  Therefore, I would be far from surprised if Chase manages to man shortstop for the Pirates for the next half decade while providing solid value over that span of time.


  1. Great article! I wanna see moar contributions from the two of ya!

  2. Really nice write up... thanks!!!