It was about this time last year when we were all saying, “The Blue Jays traded Anthony Gose for WHO?” Devon Travis was unknown to Blue Jays fans. All we’d heard was that he was ranked rather highly in the Detroit Tigers organization. Yet, as the winter progressed, it looked more and more like Travis would be considered for a starting role with the club. Lo and behold, the 2015 season started with him as the second baseman of choice.
Toronto Blue Jays
And I, for one, could not have been more happy. Firstly, the debate included the option of having Ryan Goins start instead. At the time, giving regular at bats to Goins seemed questionable. Secondly, I had developed a healthy respect for Travis (some would call it a man crush) after chatting with him on our podcast. He quickly became one of those guys you can’t help but cheer for. After a strong start to the season, a ground ball to the shoulder caused him to miss a significant amount of time and then eventually the season.
Now that he has had the time to heal properly, we can expect that he’ll come into Spring Training ready to prove himself all over again. This time, he won’t be bringing as many question marks with him. We’ve seen his bat play at the big league level. We’ve even seen his glove hold up well. Considering that was the biggest knock on him, he really just needs to show consistency and health.
Devon Travis started the 2015 season like a man on fire! On Opening Day, he started his season with his first MLB hit: a home run in Yankee Stadium off Chasen Shreve. He would also pick up 2 walks that day. And that was the perfect example of Travis’ abilities. He put together great at bats that ended up to be walks and could also strike for a big hit. According to BaseballReference.com, he collected 7 “go ahead” hits for the Blue Jays. This might not seem like a lot, but we have to remember the sample size form which we have to work.
Early on in the season, he occupied the bottom spots in the batting order. As he gained more success, manager, John Gibbons tried him higher up in the order. It had an interesting impact. He scored the bulk of his runs being driven in by the big bats in this Blue Jays lineup: 14 runs from Josh Donaldson, 5 from Jose Bautista and 4 from Edwin Encarnacion. He also drove himself in 8 times.
He proved to be more productive in the bottom of the order with a .340/.393/.509 line. Now, some who choose to nitpick might point to a .395 BABIP out of the 9th spot as a reason for success. But, what we really should be focused on is his ability to put together good at bats and get on base. His .361 OBP for the season is very encouraging. He showed a good eye at the plate with a 7.6% swinging strike rate, according to Fangraphs.com. His 83.2% contact rate is also encouraging.
In total, he was worth 2.3 WAR (Offense: 10.8 runs above average). But, it wasn’t just the bat that were encouraging. His so called ‘questionable defense’ was valuable as well (Defense: 3.0 runs above average). He put up a UZR/150 of 7.1, which is not off the charts, but certainly would be welcome over the course of a full season. Indeed, if you look at everything Devon Travis brought to the field, the question as to who starts next season at 2B seems pretty clear.
The problem lies in the fact that we just don’t know what we’d get from a full season of Devon Travis. In May, Travis took a ground ball to the shoulder. He tried to gut it out, but it became more and more evident that he would not be able to avoid a stint on the DL. So, he spent 6 weeks on the DL in an attempt to heal properly.
We chatted with him again right before he was set to return and he seemed optimistic about his recovery. Of course, that was before all of the mid-summer moves that catapulted this club to the postseason, so his return seemed that much more important. He would return for about a month and then he was shut down for good. His last game came on July 28. In total, Travis saw action in just 62 games.
Folks should not get overly concerned about him developing an ‘injury history’, though. When it looked like the shoulder wasn’t healing properly, he went for exploratory surgery where they found a cyst. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm told us that the club wanted to find out just why the shoulder wasn’t healing. They found the cyst and drained it. Now, it looks like he’ll make a full recovery and be ready for Spring Training.
More from Jays Journal
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
- Toronto Blue Jays: Has the Shift Killed Kevin Gausman’s 2022 Cy Young Hopes?
While none of this is really “bad”, it does point out the possible doubt as to what Travis can provide over the course of a season. Yes, he got off to a hot start, but can he maintain that? Of course, this is really pressing for some negativity, here.
We should be very excited to see what Travis brings to the Blue Jays over a full season. Some have called for him to be traded for pitching help given that Ryan Goins opened some eyes with his play to close out the season. However, this is a knee jerk reaction that should not be given real consideration. Devon Travis has shown that he can handle the everyday job at second base and thrive.
The question is whether he can live up to that for more than his sample size of 62 games. Baseball Reference (Marcels) projects that he’ll get in 320 plate appearances and hit .287/.348/.467 with 10 HR and 20 doubles. Fangraphs lists his Steamer projections at 130 games and 14 HR, 69, RBI and a .273/.326/.424 line and a WAR of 2.6. This would certainly be a welcome contribution. It certainly would exceed what fans expect Goins to be able to produce over the same timeline.
Travis represents what Blue Jays fans love: grit, hustle and a dedicated work ethic. If he can even come close to the Steamer projections, we should be quite happy. In his short time in 2015, his performance was worth $18.4M (according to Fangraphs). The Blue Jays have a bargain here and for the future. We should not be looking to cast Travis off. Instead, we should be excited for a 25 year old who has the potential to wear a Blue Jays uniform in the All Star game for the next several years.