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Devon Travis could be the future for the Blue Jays

Looking for an answer at second base for several years, the Blue Jays hope Devon Travis can sustain his 2015 breakout performance.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

An unfortunate part of the Blue Jays' run to the playoffs and subsequent performance in the playoffs was the absence of Devon Travis. A right-handed second baseman whose age 25 season will be in 2016, Travis was thrust into MLB starting duty after only 453 plate appearances in AA and 38 plate appearances in AAA. He did not disappoint.

Travis mustered quite the performance in his 238 major-league plate appearances. Before he had to exit the season due to injury, he had a 135 wRC+ with varying underlying indicators. His walk rate and strikeout rate were kind of OK, his BABIP was high (.347), and his ISO was very good (.194). He amassed 2.3 fWAR in that short amount of time.

In a large nutshell, Travis' wRC+ was due to his performance on liners and fly balls. Alex Chamberlain at FanGraphs aptly isolated the important part of this performance - his crazy spray charts. Travis appeared to walk up to the plate thinking opposite field and succeeded in making his thoughts a reality. Almost everything in the air went away from left field, except for the ones that went over the fence. All those were to left field. He batted .367 / 1.020 on flies, while the league batted .230 / .666. He batted .763 / 1.000 on liners, while the league batted .685 / .886.

The high BABIP mentioned earlier was due entirely to this performance. Ground balls had nothing to do with it. Despite having some good speed, Travis was not able to produce on roughly 50 percent of his batted balls. He batted only .216 / .227 on grounders, while the league batted .236 / .255. The difference is a little smaller than flies or liners, but Travis puts a lot of balls on the ground.

Really, Travis should be doing better on grounders. At a 14 wRC+ on ground balls, Travis is comparable to qualified hitters Avisail Garcia, Torii Hunter, Brandon Crawford, Russell Martin, and Carlos Correa. Three of those fellows do not move well, Crawford is not particularly known for his speed, and Correa looks like an outlier with Travis.

As mentioned earlier, something that set Travis apart was his tendency to go to the opposite field in the air. This tendency did not carry over to the ground. However, there is reason for optimism. Travis' performance on grounders is more akin to someone who pulls the ball enough to be shifted against; Travis does not pull the ball enough for this to be a long-term strategy. He shares space with Correa here. The table below shows the pull percentage / opposite percentage (pull ratio - percentages from FanGraphs) on grounders for the players mentioned above plus Travis.

Player Pull Ratio
Devon Travis 2.9
Avisail Garcia 4.2
Torii Hunter 4.5
Brandon Crawford 4.6
Russell Martin 5.8
Carlos Correa 2.5

Correa and Travis - the young middle infielders with some speed and lots of promise. Everyone else - not exactly The Flash. Correa and Travis have not shown pull tendencies large enough to be shifted against. Because of that and their speed, their low performance on ground balls is not likely to stick.

Travis is likely due for negative regression in his fly ball and liner production and positive regression in his grounder production. What this looks like on a triple slash line is an awful lot like his Steamer projection - .272 / .323 / .419 for a 102 wRC+ and a .306 BABIP. Buoyed by better performance on grounders, his OBP will not crash as hard as it might, but his slugging percentage will definitely take a hit with the negative regression on flies and liners. Travis did show a little power in the minors, so it is possible that he can retain some power in the majors. His shoulder surgery complicates the beginning of 2016 and his power potential, but it does not seem like it is a hugely significant thing.

With a little bit of regression in multiple directions, Travis is likely to be at least an average offensive player with a decent chance to be above average again. The total package is something like two to three fWAR with four or so being the ceiling if the power sticks. That would go a long way toward helping the Jays return to the postseason.

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Kevin Ruprecht is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. He also writes at Royals Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @KevinRuprecht.