Where newly-acquired Travis fits on Blue Jays

Blue Jays radio broadcaster Mike Wilner joins Tim and Sid to talk about the Anthony Gose trade, Dalton Pompey, and MLB free agency.

Not only did the Toronto Blue Jays lay the groundwork for future moves at the GM Meetings, they made a trade, acquiring second base prospect Devon Travis from the Detroit Tigers for Anthony Gose.

Here’s a look at where Travis came from and how he fits on Toronto’s roster:

Background

Two years after the Tigers selected Travis in the 13th round, he had become the top prospect in their organization. While the Tigers don’t have much high-end minor league talent, Baseball America ranked him 84th among all prospects in baseball before the season.

The 23-year-old then solidified his prospect status by batting .298 with an .817 OPS at double-A Erie. Travis had been slated to go to the Arizona Fall League, but he underwent core muscle surgery that ended his season early. Detroit had been in the process of making him a centre fielder because of Ian Kinsler’s presence at second base.

The 5-foot-9 right-handed hitter hails from West Palm Beach, Fla., and played his college ball at Florida State University. The Tigers signed him for $200,000 in 2012 — an above-slot bonus reflective of his college successes.


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Strengths

Travis can hit. He has never batted below .280 or posted an OPS below .793 at any minor league level for a lifetime .323 average and .388 OBP. He hit 16 home runs in 2013 and 10 home runs in 2014 on his way to a lifetime slugging percentage of .487. That production prompted Alex Anthopoulos to make a Jose Altuve comparison and while nobody’s forecasting batting titles for Travis, the Blue Jays clearly like his ability at the plate.

Travis has also shown some speed, stealing 41 bases in 51 attempts since 2012. Though he doesn’t walk a ton, he doesn’t strike out much either.

He plays second base, a demanding defensive position at which the Blue Jays had a need. He’s also controllable for six-plus seasons and affordable. Off the field, those who know him have good things to say.

“He is just a very sincere individual,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told Chris Iott this past spring. “He loves to play the game, as you can see. He’s got enthusiasm. His game is based upon a lot of energy. But he just brings those same qualities off the field.”

Weaknesses

Listed at 5-foot-9, Travis has a smaller frame than most big-leaguers. And while he has produced at every minor league level, he’ll be 24 by the time position players report to Dunedin. He’s not a kid.

Then there’s the question of health. Travis missed six weeks during the season with an oblique injury then underwent core muscle surgery that prevented him from playing in the Arizona Fall League, as planned. He told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday that he feels “great” and has been enjoying a normal off-season, though he has yet to resume swinging a bat.

Unlike Gose, who has parts of three seasons of MLB experience, Travis has never played above double-A. So even though his numbers are impressive, he has yet to be tested against MLB or triple-A competition.

Reaction

Baseball America’s Ben Badler describes the trade as a “great move” for the Blue Jays mostly because of Travis’ hitting ability. Badler points to a quick, simple swing that allows him to make hard contact consistently. He’s viewed as an average runner and an adequate defender at second.

Not everyone was impressed, though, and ESPN’s Keith Law described the deal as the exchange of a failed prospect (Gose) for a non-prospect (Travis). Ouch.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs takes a more thorough look at the deal, explaining that he likes Travis’ minor league track record and can see this deal becoming a win for both clubs given their respective needs.

Where he fits

Anthopoulos told reporters that the Blue Jays tentatively plan for Travis to open the season at triple-A Buffalo. But if the team doesn’t acquire an everyday infielder this off-season, expect Travis to arrive in Dunedin with a chance to win the everyday job from the likes of Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins.

If Travis continues to produce at the minor league level, he’d presumably be in line for a promotion at some point during the 2015 season. What happens from there will depend in large part on his ability to replicate his minor league success at the highest level.