Blue Jays Lineup: Where Does Devon Travis Belong?

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Devon Travis surprised everyone by starting the 2015 season like a house on fire. He embodied the line from the Beastie Boys, “I got mad hits like I was Rod Carew“. That is not to suggest that Travis is on the same level as the great Twins infielder, but, you get what I’m saying. The reason for Travis’ our surprise in his start had nothing to do with his ability, but more to do with the fact that we just didn’t know what to expect. The results were a rookie who shot right up to the top of the Blue Jays lineup.

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After a stint on the DL that felt like forever, Travis is back. And, he hasn’t missed a beat. He returned on the 26th of June and hit .313 to close out the month. He collected 5 hits in 5 games and scored 3 runs form the bottom of the order. Slotting him in low in the order would allow him the opportunity to get his timing back without the pressure of a more prominent spot. You could argue it worked. So far in July, Travis is hitting .394 with 13 hits in 9 games. He hasn’t hit a home run since his return, but those will come. He does have 3 doubles. All of this has to make you wonder if his bat is in the right spot. Should he be moved back up in the order?

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

There may not be a straightforward answer. But, in an attempt to provide one, I went to Fangraphs.com. And, for the purposes of this discussion, I’m focusing on his numbers from the 9th spot and lead off spot as these are the places he has the most at bats. They offer a very similar sample size too. He’s also hit in the 2nd and 8th spot for a total of 24 plate appearances.

Out of the 9th spot, Travis has seen a lot of time. In fact, he’s totaled 84 plate appearances there. He’s had the most success there, too, with a .394 average, an OBP of .381 and an OPS of .919. He has more runs and hits out of the 9th spot. He also has 15 RBI. All of this leads to a wRC+ of 153. Now, that is likely impacted by a BABIP of .403. His walk rate is a rather low 4.8% with a K rate of 17.9%.

From the lead off spot, Devon Travis has 91 plate appearances. But, he’s hitting just .193, an OBP of .264 and an OPS of .577. This is a dramatic dip. He has 2 home runs and 10 RBI with 9 runs scored. All of this means a wRC+ of 59. Now, his walk rate is higher at 7.7%, but so is his strike out rate at 19.8%. Oddly enough, his BABIP is much lower (.222) out of the leadoff spot too. When you look at it, the leadoff spot has not really been kind to Devon Travis. But, as long as Jose Reyes is healthy, we won’t need to be having that conversation anyway. 

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Atlanta Braves hire Devon Travis as GCL coach
Atlanta Braves hire Devon Travis as GCL coach /

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  • But, what about maybe hitting him 2nd and moving the power trio of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion down a spot each? Or, even setting them up the way it was thought they would be ordered this winter with Donaldson hitting 5th? Should Devon Travis be hitting 2nd with some mix of those three behind him? Well, in the 21 plate appearances from the 2 spot, Travis 3 HR, 6 RBI and is hitting .474. His OBP is .524 and his OPS sits at 1.576! All of this gives him a wRC+ of 334! Yes, it is a small sample size, but it tells me that hitting him 2nd is more of an option than 1st.

    So, then the question becomes, do you want to remove Donaldson from the 2nd spot? He’s hitting .309 with 18 HR and 50 RBI. So, probably not. So, what do you do? Well, this might be a case where the player is fine right where he is. Having Devon Travis hitting 9th might just be the way to go. With him at the bottom, there is a guy who can work at bats, get on base and be there when the big bats come up. He can be the stick with which this lineup stirs things up. Keeping him in the 9th spot removes any kind of “pressure” that comes with hitting higher. It allows the rookie to continue his success in a quiet spot.

    Devon Travis is not a number 9 hitter. And, as he progresses in his career, this conversation may never come up again. But, for right now, in this lineup, this season, Devon Travis might be in the right spot for him and for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Next: Is Edwin Encarnacion a Possible Trade Chip?

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