Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: sam travis

Top 4 Red Sox Players to Watch in Spring Training

Michael Chavis

Salem Red Sox

The long winter is over and the Red Sox are back on the field in Fort Myers getting ready for (hopefully) a strong 2018 season. Spring Training provides a great opportunity for fans to see current Red Sox players and future prospects on the field together. On the flip side, it can be very difficult to watch a full game over the next month when by the 5th inning most of the players on the field are unfamiliar. In an effort to help everyone focus on just a few names and storylines, here are some prospects (and perhaps a familiar name or two) to watch for during Spring Training.

Michael Chavis

A familiar name to those in the know, Chavis the the #2 prospect in the Red Sox system. The 22-year old 3rd baseman has struggled a bit defensively, but has offensive potential for days. He appears to be on a path to play every day in the big leagues, especially if he can work on his defense. Since the Red Sox have previous #2 ranked prospect Rafael Devers as their 3rd baseman, the team is planning to work Chavis at 1st base this Spring to see if that’s a future role for him in the big leagues. Since his defense isn’t great at 3rd and his bat is really his best quality, there isn’t much risk in trying him at 1st.

Blake Swihart

This season feels make or break for Swihart. After getting a good look in the majors in 2015 (84 games), he hasn’t been able to stay in the big leagues because of injuries and struggles (25 games in 16 and 17). Now that Swihart is healthy and has a full Spring Training to get reps, the catcher/outfielder/first baseman is looking to cement his roster spot this Spring. He is now out of minor-league options, so will likely be on the opening day roster as a bench bat. The Red Sox have also toyed with the idea of trying Swihart in the infield (other than 1st), making him a super-utility player off the bench. Swihart has offensive potential and could be a nice depth piece for this team, but if he struggles this Spring, he may be looking for a new club in a month or two.

Jalen Beeks

Another member of the Red Sox 2014 draft class, Beeks got the nod against the Northeastern Huskies in the Spring Training opener. Beeks was the Red Sox minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2017, posting a strong 11-8 record, 3.29 ERA, and .224 batting average against in 26 starts (145 innings). The lefty was teammates with Andrew Benintendi at the University of Arkansas and now at 24 years old, is starting to gain some experience that should help him become more consistent. He will start 2018 in AAA Pawtucket and on the 40-man roster, making him a potential call-up option in the event of injury to an MLB starter. He’s listed as the #10 prospect in the system, but appears to be getting closer to the doorstep.

Sam Travis

I’m a broken record when it comes to Travis: I think he has the potential to be the everyday 1st baseman in the majors (see my spotlight before his MLB debut). Every time I watch Travis swing the bat, I see his extra-base power potential and really want to see him get the chance to play everyday in the big leagues. He plays hard and grinds with max effort all the time. After a devastating ACL injury sidelined him in 2016 when it looked like he was on the brink of getting the call, Travis missed 10 months and finally came back to play in 82 games in AAA Pawtucket and 23 with the Red Sox in 2017. The #5 prospect now has the chance to enter Spring Training healthy and start on an even playing field with everyone else. He’ll likely see a lot of playing time as the coaching staff gets a good long look at him. I don’t think there is room for him on the MLB roster to start the season, but he should be waiting by the phone in case of injury.

Honorable Mention – J.D. Martinez

If for nothing else but drama, Martinez is my honorable mention. A major signing happening this late is highly unusual and will put J.D. at least a few days behind the rest of his teammates. The fact that he hadn’t officially be introduced as of writing this is a bit concerning, because it is slowing down his acclimation into his new environment. He doesn’t need a long Spring to get ready, most hitters don’t, but don’t underestimate the importance of getting settled and bonding with new teammates before the daily grind of the regular season kicks in.  All eyes will be J.D. once (if) his contract is officially announced.

Beginning of the Sam Travis Experiment

Getty Images

For the past few years, one interesting minor league name kept getting thrown around in conversation: 1B Sam Travis. He started off last season at AAA Pawtucket looking like an absolute beast, hitting .272 with 6 HRs, 10 doubles, and 29 RBIs in just 47 games. The spotlight was turning to him and his MLB debut was getting closer with each passing game. Then, almost exactly a year ago, Travis was chasing down a runner at first base and came up in pain. It was the worst case scenario for the young prospect: a torn ACL.

“Obviously, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but you know, that’s life. Things happen. You can’t sit back and feel sorry for yourself. You’ve just gotta keep grinding day by day, and I’m ready to go.” Sam Travis on his ACL injury

That injury obviously ended his 2016 season and began a long road to recovery. Rebounding from a torn ACL is not a sure thing and losing a year of development in the minor leagues is difficult to overcome, but Travis was committed. He worked his tail off during the offseason, rehabbing away from the team, and he came into spring training looking strong. He was committed to regaining his spot at the top of the Red Sox prospect list and it didn’t take long to get there.

After an early slow start to the AAA season in the batters box, which is not uncommon after 10-months away from baseball, Travis returned to form. In 33 games, Travis hit .286 with 4 HRs, 14 RBIs, 13 BBs, and 2 stolen bases. The last number tells me a lot about his recovery. He has some speed to pick up steals, but after knee surgery, that’s often a place where players are either afraid to test the knee, or lose some quickness. So far, Travis looks like he is fully recovered and ready to make an impact on the big leagues.

“Hard-nosed player. A grinder type, a blue-collar player. The way he went through drill work the first couple of days, there’s no evidence of the ACL surgery that he had. He feels great. The work he put in on the rehab is certainly paying off.” Red Sox manager John Farrell during Spring Training

Finally, a year later than many expected, Sam Travis made his MLB debut for the Red Sox on May 24th and he did not disappoint. In 4 at-bats, Travis collected 2 hits, including an infield single for his first career hit, and scored his first run. His defense at first was fine, not great, but that’s Travis in a nutshell. Offensively he has the potential to be a very potent bat, but defensively he’s a work in progress and the Red Sox are comfortable with that.

I’ve been a big fan of Travis since hearing about him in 2014. He’s a tough, hard-working player who will give you 100% effort each and every play (remind you of anyone?). His mental make-up is perfect for this team, not to mention he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order power bat from the right side of the plate. If his defense can improve and he keeps swinging the bat, he’s your first baseman full-time in 2018 (maybe even later in 2017). Travis is just another key prospect that has the potential to become a core member of the MLB roster going forward. The future is bright.

Looking into the Red Sox Future

Over the past 5 years, the Red Sox have had some great success drafting and developing young talent. Tonight is the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft and rather than attempt to analyze who the Red Sox might pick, let’s take a look at who they have picked over the past 5 years and see where they are now. Since there are 40 rounds, the focus will be narrowed to top part of the draft and any notable lower picks. For those who are already bored, at least take a look at the 2011 draft, it’s something special!

2011
Round 1
RHP Matt Barnes (UConn)
C Blake Swihart

Compensation Round A
LHP Henry Owens
OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

Rounds 2, 3, and 5 (in order)
OF Williams Jerez
C Jordan Weems
RHP Noe Ramirez
SS Mookie Betts

Round 9
3B Travis Shaw

Arguably the best draft of all time, by any team. Of the top 8 players selected, 6 have seen time with the Boston Red Sox this season (2 are back in AAA Pawtucket) and the other 2 are progressing with the AA Portland Sea Dogs. To prove the point even further, 5 of the top 12 picks are either everyday offensive players or frequent bullpen arms for the Red Sox in 2016, not including the 2 other pitchers in that group who have contributed at the big league level this year.

For those who are unfamiliar with how rare this draft truly was, take a look at the other drafts after this one for the Red Sox. There are usually 1-3 players who make the big leagues or who are waiting in the wings at AAA in a really good draft. This draft, thus far for the Red Sox, has produced 7 legitimate big league players, including a few picks that are on their way to becoming superstars.

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