Over the span of a five-month period, the Boston Red Sox have made a handful of deals that have simply made the team stronger. They added one of the best pitchers in baseball, Chris Sale, to the rotation, traded for a strong relief pitcher, Tyler Thornburg, and even inked gold glove first baseman, Mitch Moreland to a one-year deal.
It is the Mitch Moreland signing that grasps my attention though. The team’s biggest question mark headed into the 2017 season was who their replacement for the legendary David Ortiz would be at DH. Well we already had an idea that it would be Hanley Ramirez despite his valiant effort last season as the team’s first basemen. The team decided to move forward with Ramirez being their man to replace Ortiz and therefore was the reason behind signing Mitch Moreland. However, the interesting part is that Moreland was only signed to a single year deal. Why is that? How are you going to resolve this issue entering the 2018 season if you will be once again facing the same problem in searching for a first baseman?
The answer currently sits in AAA Pawtucket, Rhode Island and his name is Sam Travis.
My theory is that the Red Sox expect the 23-year-old right-handed slugger to be ready for the 2018 season and their usage for Moreland will then run dry.
Sam Travis caught my eye early in the 2016 season during Spring Training. Spring Training is the time of year where you can get a sense of who is ready to be a major leaguer, who is on the cusp, and who is miles away from reaching that milestone in their career. Travis, then 22, proved last spring that he could handle Major League pitching. He and Benintendi both hold a similar characteristic. The two ballplayers carry themselves with great poise and professionalism and as they approach the plate seem calm, cool and collected.
His offensive power numbers throughout his young career hold true to my belief that he can become an offensive machine as his average sits high during his minor league stints from A-ball to triple A-ball. At every level he continues to excel which most is likely the reason as to why he has advanced to the step below the majors at such an accelerated pace.
During his first year within the team’s farm system, Travis accumulated an average of .316 between Greenville and Lowell. In Lowell, Travis racked up an average of .333 proving that his worth was far beyond lowly A-ball in Lowell.
The following season he was promoted to AA with the Portland Seadogs. Here Travis took part in 65 total games and finished off at .300 with the team based out of Maine before he was shipped to A+ ball in Salem, VA. Here his average rose to .313.
And finally we reach 2016 where I first laid my eyes on the future starting first baseman for the Boston Red Sox. Travis was impressive during his time with the major league ball club in the spring. And by impressive, I mean your eyes should have widened at the site of what this kid was doing and if you weren’t excited about what you were seeing from him, you either don’t understand the game of baseball, or hate productivity. Travis hit .469 with two doubles, two trips around the bases, scored four runs and drove in 13.
But it wasn’t enough as he began the year in AAA Pawtucket, which in truth, was expected. Then 22 year old, Travis was proving his worth with the team and his batting average showed to dip in comparison to previous years with the lower levels of the ball club but these numbers are skewed as he was only able to play in 47 games as his season was cut short due to an ACL tear suffered during a run down in May.
During the 2016 regular season Travis scratched together a season of .272 at the dish accompanied by six home runs.
There is another note that I would like to bring forth. Travis, although I continue to call him a slugger because I believe he will be a home run hitter for Boston one day, truly hasn’t displayed an enormous amount of power throughout his career thus far. The most that he has strung together in a single season is just nine during his 2015 stint. Does this worry me? Please. Not at all. In fact I see this more as an encouraging sign. What this can be viewed as is a young hitter looking to hone his skills, which translates to his high average. Before you can start lifting deep flies over the fence in the majors, you need to assure that you can first be a hitter who can get on base by playing some small ball. Assure that you can get the bat on the ball for average and eventually the home runs will follow if you are a true power hitter.
He was one of my main focuses as we entered Spring Training back in February, as he was due to return from his ACL injury. Travis got off to a relatively solid start as he currently is sitting on a .280 batting average within 25 at bats with two home runs. He looks smooth at the plate and confident.
The first baseman is no slouch when it comes to the field either. Overall throughout his career Travis holds a .989 fielding percentage with his first year in the farm system being his worst as he muffed eight balls. According to minorleagueball.com, he is limited defensively to first base due to his arm strength not truly being top of the line and his lack of speed.
However, he is a solid fielder with an even stronger bat. There is no doubt in my mind that Travis will end up beginning the season in AAA, however, I am equally as confident that we will see him in the majors at some point this season barring anymore season ending injuries.
Travis is a kid who is looked at highly throughout the organization and is expected to be a major leaguer in the very near future. Again, to reiterate my point, I believe this is why Moreland was only given a one-year contract. They believe that Travis will be ready to roll for next season at the major league level. And if his bat turns out to be what I believe it will be, then man oh man watch out AL East, we have a new bomber in town, and his name is Sam Travis.
Travis is currently ranked 5th in the Red Sox farm system. Keep an eye out for him as the year progresses and do not be surprised to see him manning first base come September call-ups… or even prior.
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