If the Toronto Blue Jays are going to succeed in 2017, a healthy return from Devon Travis will be the reason
If you’ve been following our Toronto Blue Jays coverage for the last year, you will already know this about me. If you haven’t, I need to come clean. I have a healthy respect for Devon Travis. That’s a conservative way of saying I quite like him. That needs to be established before we move forward in this little exercise.
As well, it is important to note that the staff here at Jays From the Couch will be able to have their own selection for the player they think will be the key to the Blue Jays’ 2017 success. Likely, they will not share my enthusiasm for the importance of Travis. I’ll also acknowledge that as readers (and fans) you will likely have your own ideas as to who will be of importance moving forward. Feel free to share those thoughts in the comment section and look out for future posts to see if our staff chose the same player(s).
OK, so Devon Travis. Here’s the thing: it’s rather difficult to pinpoint exactly what the Blue Jays will see from him in 2017. In his 2 years of big league ball, he’s really only played one season. After missing 100 games in 2015, he would turn around and miss 61 contests in the last campaign. Missing this kind of time tends to paint a picture of being prone to injuries. But, we can’t say that about Travis. The injuries he suffered were caused by unusual anatomical issues that he really couldn’t do anything about. I mean, he couldn’t avoid having bones grow weirdly in his shoulder, especially when he only noticed it after taking a groundball off the shoulder. No, the type of injuries he has dealt with make him a special case; one exempt from the injury prone label…for now. It is for that reason that any further conversation comes with the qualifier of him being healthy. This goes without saying.
Rather than looking back on what Travis did in 2016, we can use his total big league numbers to better represent what a full (again, assuming health) season might look like.
|162 Game Avg.||162||667||91||188||46||19||84||7||38||129||.301||.342||.469||.811|
You put that all together in one season and you have a rather impactful bat in the Blue Jays lineup. He brings an enticing mix of contact and on base percentage to the order. Fangraphs put his WAR over the last 2 seasons at 2.3 and 2.5 respectively. If we were to combine his two seasons into one to better represent a full season, he’d be a 4.8 win second baseman. Obviously, that doesn’t hold up in the real world of logic and math, but it does give you the idea, here.
In 2017, his projections seem to be on par with what he’s done in the past. THIS post from Carson Custulli explains the Blue Jays’ 2017 ZiPS projections and Travis is looking at a 3 win season with 29 doubles, 15 HR and 61 RBI all on a line of .284/.330/.463. Meanwhile, his Steamer outlook has him hitting slightly worse (12 HR, 54 RBI, .274/.319/.418) and only seeing 1.8 WAR.
While the numbers look to be conservative, they really do not tell the story of Travis’ impact on the 2017 Blue Jays. The real story has to do with what he brings to the table. He is a right handed bat, which the club has plenty of, so he won’t exactly win any points for that. But, that doesn’t really matter. Travis puts together good at bats. He doesn’t walk a lot, as evidenced by his career 5.7% rate. But, neither does he strike out a lot. He’s going to put together at bats that see him get on base. In his 163 games played, he’s scored 92 times.
Now, scoring runs has more to do with who is around him than anything else. And, that is exactly why he is the key to the club’s success. With Edwin Encarnacion (and likely Jose Bautista) gone, this club will have to figure out a way to score runs. They’ve taken a step in the right direction by adding Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. But, the need for a leadoff hitter still exists; they need someone who can set the table for the middle of that order.
This is where Travis comes in. For so long we’ve seen Toronto struggle to find the right entity at the top of the order. They’ve tried many different guys in that role. They had to because Devon Travis was hurt. When he returned, and got his timing down, he was slotted into the leadoff role. He’s seen more at bats leading off than in any other spot in the order. It would make sense to see him back in that spot.
However, the numbers would also suggest that he did even better near the bottom of the order. He’s hit .354 batting 8th and .338 batting 9th. That is not to say that he should not be a leadoff hitter, though. In fact, what it points to is that Travis provides a flexibility the Blue Jays roster needs. He would be a good option to leadoff, but there are situations where he could be a force at the bottom of the order. Personally, I’d like to see him leadoff and get more at bats. But, if a guy like Dalton Pompey has success and would fit better in the leadoff spot, you can be more open to that option because Travis provides flexibility.
We know what we are going to get from the likes of Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and the other bigger bats in the lineup. But, Devon Travis is going to be the one that either creates, or fills a big hole in the order. When he’s healthy, this lineup will be dramatically improved. If he is not, they will have to rely on Ryan Goins– like production. There is a dramatic dropoff if Travis is not in the lineup. It’s the kind of dropoff that makes a guy the key to the team’s success in 2017.
*Featured Image Credit: Bliss Nogueira
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.