Red Sox in the AFL: Travis one to watch at 1B
No. 11 prospect in Boston system is solid hitter whose power could improve
Indiana made its first trip to the College World Series in 2013, and it won consecutive Big Ten Conference regular-season and tournament championships in '13 and '14, powered in large part by Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis.
Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 Draft by the Cubs, is already powering his way to legend status in Chicago. Travis, a second-round choice in the same Draft by the Red Sox, isn't too far away from making a big league impact either.
Travis, who is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 11 prospect in the Boston farm system, split his first full pro season between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland, batting a combined .307/.381/.452 with 47 extra-base hits and 19 steals in 131 games. With Boston having no obvious long-term solution at first base at the Major League level, it sent Travis to the Arizona Fall League to further expedite his development.
At four stops in the Red Sox system, the 22-year-old Travis has displayed a penchant for making consistent hard contact. He has a sound right-handed stroke and has good discipline at the plate, walking (59) nearly as many times (77) as he struck out in 2015.
The only question with Travis' offensive game is how much power he'll develop after he slammed just nine homers this season. He does possess strength and bat speed, so it's more a matter of approach than a true lack of pop.
Travis could hit more home runs if he were more aggressive at the plate, but he says at this point he's not worried about selling out for power.
"I'm just keeping things simple," said Travis, who has gone 7-for-31 (.226) with three doubles in his first seven games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. "I'm going back to day one -- the most important thing is just trying to hit the ball hard and make things happen for the team. If you go up there and try to have team at-bats, that's when you're going to be successful."
Power will matter more now that Travis has become a full-time first baseman, after seeing some time at third base as an amateur. He lacked the quickness and arm strength to play the hot corner in pro ball, but his soft hands work nicely at first base.
Though he's known for his hitting, Travis is just as diligent working on his defense.
"This past season, I definitely learned the most I ever learned defensively playing first base," he said. "I feel real comfortable over there now, and it shows. I feel like my game's improving a lot. I've gained a lot more confidence over there, and I'm having fun on defense."
Red Sox hitters in the Fall League
• Carlos Asuaje, 2B: One of the best pure hitters in the Boston system, he led the low Class A South Atlantic League in slugging (.542) and OPS (.933) in his first full pro season in 2014 before skipping a level and batting .251/.334/.374 in Double-A this year. An 11th-round choice out of NCAA Division II school Nova Southeastern in 2013, he has played second base, third base, left field and shortstop, and he could be an offensive-minded utilityman.
• Tzu-Wei Lin, SS: Signed for $2.05 million in 2012 -- a record for a Taiwanese player -- he still has the plus speed and solid defensive ability that made him rich. But he hasn't hit much as a pro, including a .251/.307/.328 performance with 23 steals in 119 games between high Class A and Double-A this year.
Red Sox pitchers in the Fall League
• Kyle Martin, RHP: The ninth-round senior sign from Texas A&M in 2013 spent most of this season in Double-A, recording a 4.50 ERA and a 48/16 K/BB ratio in 42 relief innings. His fastball ranges from 91-95 mph, while his changeup is his best secondary pitch.
• Danny Rosenbaum, LHP: A 22nd-round pick out of Xavier by the Nationals in 2009, he came to the Red Sox in a January trade for Dan Butler. Rosenbaum is a finesse lefty who relies heavily on his changeup. He missed most of 2014 following Tommy John surgery and went 0-7 with a 6.02 ERA in 11 Double-A starts this year.
• Chandler Shepherd, RHP: A starting pitcher in college at Kentucky, he became a full-time reliever after signing as a 13th-rounder in 2014, and he saw his fastball jump up to 92-95 mph in shorter stints. He spent much of the '15 season in high Class A, posting a 3.61 ERA and a 46/7 K/BB ratio in 52 1/3 innings.
• Aaron Wilkerson, RHP: He starred at Cumberland (Tenn.), leading the Bulldogs to the 2010 NAIA national championship and setting an NAIA record with 54 straight scoreless innings in 2011. But he went undrafted because he needed Tommy John surgery after his college career ended, which led to stints in three independent leagues before the Red Sox signed him in July 2014. Relying on command of four pitches and deception, he went 11-3 with a 3.36 ERA and a 137/39 K/BB ratio in 136 2/3 innings between two Class A stops and Double-A this year.