Get to know MLB's No. 1 Draft prospect Travis Bazzana

June 11th, 2024

After his best and final college season at Oregon State, Travis Bazzana is MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect eligible for the 2024 Draft. Here’s what you need to know about the highly touted second baseman before he goes pro.

FAST FACTS
Position
: 2B
Ht/Wt: 6-foot-0, 199 lbs
B/T: Left/right
DOB: Aug. 28, 2002
College: Oregon State
High school: Turramurra High School (Sydney, Australia)
Born: Hornsby, Australia
MLB Pipeline Ranking: No. 1

The Bazzmanian Devil

It’s not every day you see a top baseball prospect hail from The Outback. In fact, only one Australian-born player in MLB history has more than 30 career home runs (Dave Nilsson). But his upbringing is one of the many things that makes Bazzana uncommon.

Even in a country much more known for cricket, soccer and rugby -- all of which Bazzana played at Turramurra High School, along with track and field and basketball -- baseball ultimately won out as what he loved the most. Thanks in large part to his father, Gary, who also played baseball growing up, Bazzana first started swinging a bat at 3 years old.

With the guidance of Baseball Australia CEO Glenn Williams and NxtGen Baseball founder Ryan Rowland-Smith, both of whom are Australia natives who played in the Majors, Bazzana quickly took off as an elite prospect. And for Bazzana -- whose nicknames include the likes of “The Wonder from Down Under” and the “Bazzmanian Devil” (though he’s not actually from Tasmania) -- his loyalty to growing the game in Australia hasn’t declined a bit since he crossed the Pacific Ocean to play college ball in the U.S.

How deep does that loyalty go? Back in 2019, when he was only 16 years old, Bazzana created a still-existing document on his cell phone with the projected Australian lineup for the 2025 World Baseball Classic -- with himself batting leadoff and playing second base, of course. That WBC has since been delayed to 2026, but Bazzana's goals haven’t changed at all.

“I've been dreaming of that and discussing that with my friends from Australia who have played in the U.S. for a long time,” Bazzana said after the 2023 WBC, in which Australia reached the quarterfinals for the first time. “I really hope that we can make a great run in that tournament and just spur growth in the game of baseball in Australia.”

While Bazzana still has some time before making his WBC debut, what doesn’t require any waiting is his ability to impact the sport in his home country. Since Bazzana’s college career began, three fellow Australians have already committed to Oregon State baseball, in Oscar Hyde, Josh Nati and Liam Grant. Looking even further down the road, with baseball expected to return to the Summer Olympics by the time Australia hosts the Games in 2032, Bazzana’s influence on the sport should grow exponentially in the years to come.

“He is probably the catalyst of the next generation of [Australian] baseball,” Andrew Riddell, national player development manager at Baseball Australia, told FOX Sports Australia. “And he is going to be a name that everyone in Australia should know.”

Pro experience under his belt

How many players have played games at the professional level before they started playing in college? It’s certainly not the conventional path, but very little about Bazzana is conventional.

With baseball not being as popular in Australia as it is in the United States, Bazzana understood that he was getting fewer at-bats against top competition -- not to mention fewer at-bats overall -- than his American counterparts. As a result, at age 15 in 2018, he joined the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League (ABL), which was the top pro league his country had to offer. In his first season there, he was 10 years younger than the league’s average player, as he routinely played against grown men more than twice his age.

"I think it helped me grow up really quickly," Bazzana said of his three seasons there, in which he had a .257/.395/.371 batting line while primarily playing on Saturdays. "Being around ABL guys when I was 15, 16, 17 years old, you have to step up and can't be a kid anymore. And I think that helped me a lot."

Even when the experience wasn’t always great off the field, Bazzana used the opportunity to find ways to get better.

“I’d say a lot of the learning experience in that time was sort of using the fuel of people’s doubt in that environment to motivate me to be where I am today,” Bazzana told FOX Sports Australia. “I knew that guys in the locker room in the ABL were like, ‘How was Bazzana going to Oregon State, and how was Bazzana getting game time over me?’ There was definitely a lot of doubt in that environment being the youngest in the locker room or one of the youngest. I just learned to use it as fuel.”

Immediate college impact

Even with his lack of exposure in the United States, Bazzana had performed well enough in front of international scouts that he received his first professional offer from the Tigers at age 16. But some advice from his Australian advisors, combined with a relentless belief in himself, led him to take the college route.

“I wasn’t very highly valued by pro scouts in Australia or the international scouting market. In Australia as a high schooler, these scouts would see me hit batting practice once a year and make an evaluation on me … but the American kids play 40 to 80 games,” Bazzana said. “I didn’t think that people understood the growth I was capable of and they kind of -- I felt like they weren’t seeing what I saw in myself.”

Thanks to a lucky connection between his Australian mentors and Oregon State pitching coach Rich Dorman, the Beavers’ staff was able to see Bazzana play in a showcase in Arizona in October 2018, and the rest was history. Bazzana arrived to Corvallis in autumn 2021 dead set on helping the program reach the College World Series for the first time since a stretch from 2005-18 that included six appearances and three championships. And while the Beavers came up just short of doing so, losing in the Super Regionals in both 2022 and 2024, it became clear that any of Bazzana's individual doubters were firmly in the wrong.

As a freshman in 2022, he was named a First Team Freshman All-American by the likes of Collegiate Baseball, Perfect Game and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), thanks to his .306 batting average and .902 OPS. One year later, he took his game to a higher level, hitting a team-high .374 and being a Collegiate Baseball Second Team All-American, spurring legendary UCLA coach John Savage to refer to him as “probably the country’s best player.”

But the display he put on as a junior was simply different. He made headlines early in the season by hitting leadoff home runs in four straight games, but his entire season was nothing short of historic. His .407/.568/.911 batting line was straight out of a video game, and his preposterous 1.479 OPS ranked second nationally, behind Georgia star Charlie Condon. He is one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award (nation's top amateur player), which will be announced on June 22.

And on top of all of that, for good measure, he was the MVP of the notoriously difficult Cape Cod League in the summer of 2023, finishing with a league-best .375 batting average with a wood bat against the country’s best competition. Though Oregon State did not snap its national championship drought in his time there, Bazzana’s collegiate career has been one for the record books.

Five-tool player

When it comes to breaking down the strengths of Bazzana’s game, the easier question to ask is what he’s not good at. Via MLB’s 20-to-80 scouting scale, he ranks average or better in each of the five tools (hitting, power, speed, throwing, fielding).

His defense lags somewhat behind his offense, as both his arm and glove currently have scores of exactly 50, though Brooke Knight (his coach during a summer league in 2021) and Oregon State assistant Darwin Barney both hypothesized that he could play outfield in the pros. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci compared Bazzana’s game to D-backs sensation Corbin Carroll, with both being smaller left-handed hitters who still provide power, and Bazzana agreed, saying that Carroll and Juan Soto are among the players he models his swing after.

Assuming Bazzana joins Carroll in being a first-round pick, he’ll make a special kind of history. It’s worth noting that Australian-born players aren't eligible for the MLB Draft, unless they've moved to the United States, Canada or a U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico. But with that caveat, there has never been an Australian-born player drafted in the first round (or even the second round), with Josh Spence in 2009 and Clayton Tanner in 2006 leading the pack as third-round picks. Twenty-nine Australian-born players have been drafted at least once in the Modern Draft Era (since 1965), and according to Baseball Australia, 38 players who were either born or raised in Australia have appeared in an MLB game.

Additionally, if Bazzana is selected as a second baseman with the first overall pick, as he's currently projected to do by MLB's latest mock Draft, he’d be the only player to hold that distinction.

"It's kind of hard to fathom because you don't know what [a pro career] is going to do or mean," Bazzana said when asked about his impact on the younger generation back home. "But I've seen what a No. 1 pick or top-five pick did to basketball in Australia, and I'm starting to see the outcomes of just doing what I've done so far."

But even with all of his on-the-field prowess, there’s one sixth tool that might separate Bazzana from the rest.

A remarkable mind

When his agent, Chase Brewer, referred to him as “the most interesting man in college baseball” in 2023, one reason for that was Bazzana's highly analytical approach. When he was a kid, this first manifested itself when he devised a scheme to resell Big League Chew in a successful effort to pay for travel to a baseball tournament that was held in Maryland. And as he’s gotten older, with a growing desire to find ways to get any possible edge on his competition, that mindset has paid off time and time again.

For example, he studied metrics like sprint speed and exit velocity as soon as they were available when he was working with Williams in Australia. During his first year at OSU, he conducted research that showed that his chase rate was significantly higher in hitter-friendly counts, leading to his OBP jumping from .425 as a freshman to .500 as a sophomore. In 2023, he delivered a 90-minute Powerpoint presentation to the Oregon State pitchers on what pitches they should be throwing in certain situations. He also spent the most recent offseason examining how to add extra backspin to his hits, leading to a school-record 28 homers this season.

“He wants everything,” Oregon State head coach Mitch Canham said. “Scouting reports, data, video. He doesn’t get locked up mentally by all the analytics. He wants them all.”

Perhaps the most glaring evidence of Bazzana’s insatiable obsession to get better came during the 2023 season, when he was looking to improve his baserunning. He directly reached out to a conference rival, outfielder Rodney Green of Cal, who was leading the Pac-12 with 24 steals at the time, for advice on his “walking lead” tactic. Green was kind enough to impart some wisdom on Bazzana, and by the end of the season, Bazzana led the Pac-12 with a school-record 36 steals -- seven more than Green.

“I've always had a real focus on my own research in terms of psychology and just getting a performance edge,” said Bazzana, who was a psychology major at Oregon State. “It's mainly just about being able to go out there and be consistent, with a confident mind and a clear mind.”

That research-heavy approach led to Bazzana stunning the baseball world by declining a Cape Cod League invitation during the summer of 2022 to instead work on fine-tuning his swing at Driveline Baseball in Seattle -- becoming what Driveline trainer Andrew Aydt claimed was the “first player that I’ve heard of that’s been healthy and passed up on the Cape.”

Given that the second baseman was the league’s MVP only a year later, it’s clear the decision paid off. After all, with the Bazzmanian Devil, it seems like it always does.