Travis brings disciplined bat, leadership to Blue Jays
Ideally, every trade would benefit all involved clubs. In the case of a transaction between the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays last November, the deal seems to meet that standard. Toronto sent outfielder Anthony Gose to Detroit for second baseman Devon Travis. Both players are poised to impact their new club as part of their respective starting lineups.
Travis is a slightly built 5-foot-9, 190-pound right-handed hitter. His size can be misleading. He has surprising power with a short, quick swing and great hands through the ball. Travis' offensive upside helped him survive the Blue Jays' second-base position battle this spring.
Travis was a star baseball player at Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High School. In his senior year, he hit .483 with two homers, 26 RBIs and 21 stolen bases, showing his hitting tool and speed to college recruiters.
Travis attended Florida State University, where his outstanding baseball skills continued to develop. After missing 17 games with a broken hamate bone in his freshman year, he went on to have an award-winning three years for the Seminoles.
The Tigers selected Travis in the 13th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He considered returning to Florida State for his senior year, but chose instead to sign a professional baseball contract.
Travis is No. 8 on Toronto's Top 30 Prospects list.
Travis, 24, has shown an ability to hit for average and flash his home run power in each of parts of three Minor League seasons. He has a very robust .323 Minor League batting average. In 2013, Travis hit a combined .351 playing 77 games at Class A West Michigan and another 55 games at Class A Advanced Lakeland.
The exception to Travis' consistently stellar hitting came in the 2013 Arizona Fall League. In that autumn season, he hit .236. I scouted Travis during that period and came away feeling he was one of the best overall athletes in the league. Every one of his outs seemed to be "loud." Travis made a lasting impression with his barrel-of-the-bat hitting and advanced approach.
Extremely intelligent and articulate, Travis has the personality and demeanor of a team leader. An honor roll student in high school and an academic standout at Florida State, he takes a cerebral and well-disciplined approach to his game on the field.
Making consistent contact, Travis knows the strike zone well. His plate discipline, his eye-hand coordination and his selectivity are all part of his foundation for hitting. Travis has good plate coverage, making it difficult for a pitcher to slip a pitch by him on the outside corner. Unlike many young prospect players, he can hit breaking balls. That's an advanced skill that can help separate Travis from the competition among middle infielders.
While in the Tigers organization, the team gave Travis opportunities to play center field to help add to his versatility. He played only three games at the position. Travis had core muscle surgery in September and was traded to the Blue Jays two months later.
Defensively, Travis is average to above average at second base. His arm strength isn't the greatest, but his range is good and he can be counted upon to make all the plays.
Travis runs well enough to steal double-digit bases. He can take the extra base when needed and is a smart and savvy baserunner.
Travis played in the Fall League with Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts. Like Travis, Betts played second base in the fall and has made the conversion to the outfield. Travis is a good enough athlete to make the same type of transition if needed. But for now, he has won Toronto's second-base job.
Given everything he brings to his game, Travis' offensive potential is reason enough to be optimistic about his future. He can hit anywhere in the lineup and drive in runs, move runners along or accept a crucial walk when needed. Travis' home run in the Blue Jays' opening game may have been just a sample of things to come.