Jays From the Couch brings you the player highlights and lowlights from the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2016 season. This time: Devon Travis
After a long absence in 2015, Devon Travis was hoping to be a major contributor to the success of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016. The healing process from offseason shoulder surgery saw him miss almost 2 months of this campaign. Fans everywhere were anticipating his return, longing for him to build off the success he had in his rookie year. The knocks on him only playing as high as AA disappeared and it wasn’t long before the trade of Anthony Gose was a one-sided laugher. It is for that reason that folks couldn’t wait for him to come back and take over the everyday second base job.
He returned on May 25 against the Yankees. We can say that 2016 was a productive season for Travis as he hit .300 and bring a presence in the order that was needed. Travis again showed and ability to handle the stick and get on base. He spent time hitting in every spot in the lineup, except cleanup, showing the versatility we’d been waiting for.
As stated previously, Travis brought a bat to the lineup that offers contact, which on a swing and miss roster, is a welcome sight. According to Fangraphs, he made contact 83% of the time, hitting balls to all fields just about evenly- 35% pull, 33.2% centre, 31.7% oppo.
As you can see form his spray chart, when he hit for power, it was mostly to his pull side, which is to be expected. But, what makes him such a good weapon is his ability to take the ball the other way to get on base, as indicated by his singles.
And, it is not just that he can go the other way, it is that he has an ability to cover the strike zone. Check out his heatmap (from Fangraphs). You get an idea of the kind of plate coverage he brings to an at bat. He is able to make contact middle in or out, it doesn’t matter.
Despite his ability to make contact, Travis’ ability to get on base had very little to do with his ability to take a walk. His 2016 BB rate was 4.6%. For reference, Kevin Pillar, the guy who never walks, the guy who has a Twitter account dedicated to him rather doing anything than walking, put up a rate of 4.1%. As well, his K rate was up form last season to 20.1%. Like Pillar, Travis goes up to the plate swinging. It does make him an odd choice when it comes to putting him in the leadoff spot.
Another knock against Travis at the plate is that he hits the ball on the ground… a lot…46.4%, in fact. Oddly, he only grounded into 6 double plays during the regular season, but it was certainly on display in the postseason, where he had 4 in his 3 games played.
Travis is known as a bat first player. His defense was always the question mark. When we first heard he was coming to Toronto, we heard that there was doubt his glove could play at the big league level. While he did answer that question, he still had moments of struggles in the field. He made 11 errors in 2016, which, according to my weak math skills, puts him at an error every 10 games. That mightn’t look so bad if they came that way. If you look at his Baseball Reference game logs, he didn’t commit his first error until July 27. But, then there was a stretch from August 19 through Sept 9 where he made 7, including 3 straight games. Despite that, you might be surprised to read that he put up 2 DRS and a UZR/150 of 2.4.
Of course, the biggest lowlight for Devon Travis, has to be the injury to his knee. While the exact cause of the injury is rather mysterious, the result is that he not only had a bone bruise, which they tried to put a cortisone band-aid on, he had cartilage caught in the knee joint itself. The amount of pain he must have been in (as evidenced on his face when during the ALCS.
With the weird bone growth injury in his shoulder last season and the knee this year, Travis has yet to spend a full season on the active roster. While it may not be fair to call him “injury prone”, if he were hitting free agency this winter, it would certainly cost him big time money.
Luckily, Devon Travis looks to be a Blue Jay for a long time. He won’t hit free agency until 2021. Barring some drastic move that sends him to another team this winter, he should be ready to take the field when the 2017 season opens up. And, the reason the Blue Jays wouldn’t look to deal him is the same reason why we can expect that he’ll be their starting second baseman next year- there just is no one else the club feels comfortable running out there every day. Ryan Goins would be the only competition Travis would face for that job and we know how the club feels about each of them.
The biggest hurdle for Travis will be his health. If he can heal properly, he looks to figure prominently into the Blue Jays lineup. Assuming he is back to his regular self at the plate, they should probably consider him for the leadoff spot. He might be the closest thing this club has to one right now.
*Featured Image CREDIT: BLISS NOGUEIRA BLISSPHOTO.CA
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