Red Sox Rankings: Top 5 Surprises of 2016 Season
5. Travis Shaw has the best average on the team
The Red Sox win-now attitude that has permeated their recent decisionmaking has been the result of two years out of the playoffs, finishing in last place. At the end of last season, with the team reeling from its poor record and John Farrell’s cancer diagnosis, it was time to give young players a chance. Mike Napoli ($16M salary) was shipped off to the Texas Rangers and a big corner infielder named Travis Shaw was given a chance to show what he could do.
After hitting just five homers in 322 plate appearances at Pawtucket in 2015, Shaw socked 13 homers in 248 plate appearances playing mostly first base (five starts at third base). After the Hanley Ramirez outfield disaster last season, he was converted to first base for this season and has taken to it remarkably well. This seemed to leave Shaw without a position, but returning to that win-now philosophy, Shaw was given the third base job over the scuffling Sandoval at the end of Spring Training.
Not only is Shaw making all the plays at third base, committing no errors at third so far this season, he is tearing the cover off the ball in the middle of the Red Sox batting order. On the morning of April 19, Shaw had a batting line of .342/.432/.553 to lead the team in batting average. According to baseball-reference.com, Shaw is tied for second in the major leagues with a 1.1 WAR (wins against replacement) for the 2016 season, already matching his number for the 55 games played in 2015. While that batting average number is not sustainable (currently .455 BABIP, batting average on balls in play, last year it was .304), he has put up that slugging percentage while only hitting one homer so far this season.
Next: Pablo Sandoval diagnosis delayed
It is likely that Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts will end up leading the team in hitting by the end of the year, but Shaw’s performance so far shows he has a very bright future in the major leagues in whichever corner of the infield he plays.
Stay tuned to BoSoxInjection.com as next week we will take a look in the weekly Rankings article at the best players the Red Sox will face in the month of May.