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Breaking Down the New York Mets: At Catcher, a Veteran Gets the Start, but a Prospect is Up Next

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COMMENTARY | When the New York Mets traded R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays over the winter, they were trading away the present -- whatever the present means for a team that's made a habit of finishing near the bottom of the National League East -- for the future.

To say that the Mets have high hopes for Travis d'Arnaud, the 24-year-old catcher who they acquired in the trade with Toronto, is an understatement. D'Arnaud is one of baseball's best prospects. A lot is expected.

You don't hear d'Arnaud being compared to Brian Schneider, or Rod Barajas, or Josh Thole. You hear him being compared to Mike Piazza, with talk about 20-plus home runs a season and a guy who can hit for average.

Yes, he's a catcher, so defense is important. But the reason why d'Arnaud is so highly regarded is because of his bat. What a luxury it is to have a catcher who hits for power and average.

D'Arnaud will most likely start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. That's been the plan all along. But if all goes well, he won't be in the minors for too long. When he gets called up, the Mets plan to play him every day.

When that happens, John Buck, who will start the season as the Mets' No. 1 catcher, will become his backup. And who knows, Buck may get traded to a team with playoff aspirations that may be in need of a veteran catcher. If he stays, he'd be a real good backup to a potential rising star.

There are no questions about Buck's defense. He's highly regarded when it comes to that part of the game. The offense is now the concern.

In 2010, he hit 20 home runs and batted .281. His average dropped to .227 in 2011, and he only hit .192 last year with just 12 home runs.

The Mets will need more offensive production from Buck, but they don't need him to be Piazza.

Anthony Recker and Landon Powell are battling to be Buck's backup.

That is, until d'Arnaud makes it to Citi Field.

Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

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