On-Base Perception

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Travis d'Arnaud is batting too low in lineup for Mets

Mets designated hitter Travis d'Arnaud #15 during a

Mets designated hitter Travis d'Arnaud #15 during a Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers. (March 11, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud was ranked as one of the top-100 prospects in baseball for four consecutive seasons by Baseball America. He’s been in the top-50 each of the past three seasons and top-25 each of the last two. Prior to this season, BA ranked him the No. 23 overall prospect, the Minor League Baseball Analyst had him No. 9 and MLB.com placed him No. 6.

All of this is a long way of saying d’Arnaud is and has been a highly thought of young player. The Analyst projects consistent All-Star campaigns as his upside and assigns him a status of 8A, which means there’s a 90 percent probability he becomes a solid MLB regular.

Travis d’Arnaud batted eighth for the Mets on Wednesday night.

If d’Arnaud was called up in the middle of a pennant race on a team of world-beaters (the Tigers for instance), we wouldn’t type word one about his lineup position.

The Mets, however, are not a team of world-beaters in the midst of a pennant race. Their best hitter is on the disabled list, they have no confidence in the lumbering, powerful pretty-good-left-fielder-for-a-DH Lucas Duda, and they just traded two of their top power hitters to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

To further the point, here’s Wednesday’s lineup (sans pitcher) and each players’ season on-base plus slugging percentage, second half OPS and August OPS (keep in mind, the best players have an OPS over .800, the worst below .650):

  Season OPS Second half OPS August OPS
Eric Young Jr. .645 .538 .523
Juan Lagares .691 .780 .653
Andrew Brown .776 .816 .974
Ike Davis .654 .948 .983
Josh Satin .796 .576 .631
Wilmer Flores .634 .634 .634
Justin Turner .653 .679 .735
Travis d'Arnaud .507 ,507 ,507

Though he’s hitting just .107, d’Arnaud has a mere ten games in the majors. An encouraging sign: he’s walking (six times) nearly as often as he’s striking out (seven times). The 24-year-old’s minor league track record was also superb, with a .286 average, .347 on-base percentage and .476 slugging percentage in seven seasons. During a 2013 partially marred by injury, d’Arnaud had a .934 OPS in 131 plate appearances and walked (25) more than he struck out (23).

In short: d’Arnaud should be batting far higher than eighth.

During his nine starts this season, d’Arnaud has hit sixth once, seventh seven times and eighth ones.

Compare that to another notable rookie, Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers. The Rays, unlike the Mets, are in the middle of a playoff push. They have outstanding hitters like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist and just added another solid bat in David DeJesus.

Yet Myers has never batted lower than sixth. His most frequent positions in the order are fourth (19 times) and fifth (16 times). Myers is thriving. He has a .794 OPS and is the leading American League Rookie of the Year candidate.

A player’s service time should not dictate their position in the batting order, their level of talent should.

Especially on a team like the Mets are right now.

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