Travis Shaw looking to earn role with Boston Red Sox in 2016


The rest of this season will primarily be about evaluating the talent on this roster with an eye on determining which players fit into the future plans of the Boston Red Sox. While some veterans are already locked in due to their stature or the size of their contracts, many of the young players will be looking to cement a role for themselves with a strong finish. One such player that has been stepping up to the challenge is Travis Shaw.

Not much was initially expected of the 25-year old, who was initially called up back in May to provide the team with infield depth. He has spent the season riding the shuttle between Boston and Pawtucket, but when the Red Sox shipped Mike Napoli out of town earlier this month it cleared a path for Shaw to get some regular playing time. So far he’s making the most of the opportunity and has quickly established himself as one of the most pleasant surprises of the second half of the season.

More from Red Sox News

Shaw entered the day hitting a scorching .348 through 8 games this month, with a 1.037 OPS that trails only the red-hot David Ortiz on the team. Granted his numbers this month come in a small sample size, which is heavily influenced by a 4-for-4 performance against the Tampa Bay Rays to open the month, but Shaw still has three multi-hit games in his last seven starts.

What’s surprising about this offensive outburst is that he doesn’t have the track record in the minors to predict this type of success at the major league level, nor does the former 9th-round pick have the pedigree of a surefire prospect.

Shaw is a career .261/.359/.445 hitter in his five year minor league career, but he’s been even better than that in his brief time in the majors. He has a career .803 OPS in the minors, but an .807 OPS at the big league level. That generally doesn’t happen, which suggests that Shaw may be due for some regression. Then again, he may simply be maturing into the player he was meant to be.

There were times throughout Shaw’s minor league career that he struggled, but he was able to work his way out of it. When he would get himself in trouble is when the strikeouts started to pile up and he tried too hard to swing for the fences, resulting in a lot of ground balls pulled to the right side. It took time to fix his swing, but he now looks back on those hard times as a learning experience that has helped him develop into a better hitter.

"“I think it’s key for anybody to go through that,” Shaw recently told the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham. “I think it’s key to go through it before you get up here. Obviously you’re going to struggle at some point in the majors. Just learning how to deal with that, how to get through that, is big.”"

More from BoSox Injection

Boston has had an infusion of youth over the past two seasons, having promoted a number of enticing prospects in their early 20’s. We have seen players like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. fall into a tailspin at the first sign of a slump during their first taste of big league action. Those players hadn’t experienced failure in the minors, so it was difficult for them to deal with initially. Bogaerts has blossomed into a star this season and Bradley is finally showing signs of competence at the plate, but you wonder if they would have found success earlier if they were better equipped to deal with failure at a young age.

Shaw has learned from his mistakes and carried this progress with him to the majors. While we can’t expect him to keep up his current pace, we should also be open to the possibility that Shaw is a late bloomer that is coming into his own.

Boston will continue to evaluate their roster as the season winds down. First base remains an open question mark heading into 2016, with a number of directions the Red Sox could go in. They could end up shifting the defensively challenged Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval over to the position. They could also explore free agent options, such as Chris Davis.

There are numerous options available for a Red Sox team armed with payroll flexibility and a deep farm system full of trade chips. It’s up to Shaw to continue to hit when given the opportunity to impress upon the team that he remains one of those options.

"“I don’t know where this all goes,” says Shaw. “But I get to play and that’s all anybody wants.”"

If he keeps it up, he’ll get to keep playing a regular role beyond this season.