Knowing catchers focus on the defensive part of their trade early in their development, late age breakouts often happen at this position. After being designated for assignment by the Mets, Travis d’Arnaud dusted himself off turning in a strong 2019 with Tampa Bay hitting ..263/.323/.459 with 16 home runs in 92 games spanning 365 plate appearances. d’Arnaud parlayed this into a two-year contract with Atlanta.

During his debut with the Braves, d’Arnaud not only carried over his gains with the Rays, he spent most of his season hitting fourth or fifth in a loaded lineup. d’Arnaud launched nine home runs driving in 34 which led all catchers in 2020. His robust .321/.386/.533 slash also jumped off the page while researching for the profile. Fueled by a career high .411 batting average on balls in play accounts for the spike in average, but it appears d’Arnaud made noticeable gains in power.

According to Statcast, d’Arnaud recorded 116 batted ball events with 13 barrels (11.2-percent), an over three MPH jump in average exit velocity to 93.4 MPH (98th percentile) and the league's leading 57.8 hard hit percentage. Noting expected statistics on this site reflect quality of contact, d’Arnaud's .304 expected batting average ranks in the 95th percentile, his .538 expected slugging and .370 expected weighted on-base average place in the 90th percentile.

Beneath the shiny numbers, d’Arnaud maintained his swing percentage from 2019 last year but his whiff rate rose by 4.5 percentage points. Yet his contact skills remained stable. An unsustainable surge in line drive percent (39.7 in 2020) fueled his expected rates. Keep this in mind when viewing his projections. Still, the overall gains insulate a collapse in power or batting average for 2021, just dial back his 2020 numbers occurring over a full season.

In an effort to expand his sample, d’Arnaud's numbers from the second half of 2019 through last year includes the start of his improved power metrics:

- d’Arnaud 2H 2019-through-2020: 100 games, 418 plate appearances, 50 runs, 19 home runs, 81 RBI, stolen base; .291/.354/.492, 8.6 BB%, 23.7 K%, .201 ISO, .358 wOBA

Knowing projection sets incorporate data from the last three years, it's tough to accomplish this feat for d’Arnaud since he missed most of 2018. Using the last two years can help gather more intel regarding d’Arnaud along with a more repeatable slash line for his future:

- d’Arnaud Last Two Years: 147 games, 575 plate appearances, 71 runs, 25 home runs, 103 RBI, stolen base; .273/.336/.465, 8.3 BB%, 23.5 K%, .192 ISO, .339 wOBA

With reports of a deadened baseball in the major leagues this year, seeing his spray charts may divulge how to value d’Arnaud for 2021:

Pull side home runs remain safer so seeing d’Arnaud's propensity of power to center field may depress his total for the upcoming season. He needs to carry over the gains in his average exit velocities to overcome the potential loss of five feet per fly ball in 2021. Luckily, he surged in the home run friendly launch angles between 20-to-35 degrees evidenced in his radial chart:

Taking all of this into consideration, here's d’Arnaud's projections for 2021 from five different sites:

If baseball truly deadens baseballs, his power total could drop to 15 instead of the 18-to-20 above but his home ballpark and lineup should insulate his counting statistics. Pay for the ZiPS projection and profit if he reaches the 20 home runs forecast by THE BAT X.

Statistical Credits:

THE BAT X and THE BAT courtesy of Derek Carty

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski