First baseman Sam Travis of the Boston Red Sox was once considered a top prospect. Can Travis return to his earlier promise?
Buried within the depths of the Boston Red Sox 40-man roster is a former second-round draft choice (2014) who as recently as 2017 was the team’s third-ranked prospect. Just what does the future hold for Sam Travis? Is Travis now a missing person baseball variety? Another budding example of how the mighty have fallen within the prospect spectrum.
The now 25-year-old Travis has an option left so expect another year or partial year at Pawtucket (AAA) unless injuries or a trade intervene – a legitimate exile based on the roster numbers game. In 2018, Travis did not exactly light up International League (IL) pitching, hitting a paltry .258 with eight home runs. Travis, despite his muscular build, has never hit more than nine home runs in a season.
Travis was certainly on the fast track with the Red Sox until an unfortunate knee injury put a damper on his 2016 season as an incomplete. That spring training, Travis impressed hitting .536 with power and was sent to Pawtucket. At Pawtucket the pre-injury Travis was leading the IL in RBI (29) and the future looked bright, but after his “recovery,” Travis never has really caught fire again.
The Red Sox value versatility and Travis – a first baseman by trade – has played left field at Pawtucket and in a brief sojourn to Boston in 2018 did the same. Travis patrolling the outfield will not create any whimsical comparisons to Jackie Bradley Jr. For now, the unfortunate Travis has roadblocks at two positions – the outfield and first base. You could also toss in designated hitter (DH) since Travis has a few swings from the DH position.
The ideal path for Travis would be as part of a trade package, but there is also a further option and it is the future. Both Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce will leave after the season as free agents unless, of course, they are re-signed. Travis lighting it up in Pawtucket could change management perspective on just what options exist at first and Travis could magically resurrect his Boston hopes.
The outfield situation is even bleaker for Travis as a potential path to more MLB playing time. Lack of experience and the presence of Andrew Benintendi limits that. Bluntly stated it seems Travis is in a maze – a maze that has a start but no end. Everywhere Travis takes a turn a wall appears that makes any consistent playing time in Boston a very long shot.
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The Travis situation is similar to that of Blake Swihart since both were highly prized prospects who suffered injuries that curtailed their development. The Red Sox also developed other positional alternatives for the athletic Swihart that could result in a greater degree accessibility to Boston playing time either as a catcher or a nomadic presence in the field.
Travis has hit just .250 in parts of two MLB seasons with a lone home run, but the sample is small – just 112 at-bats. What floats around in my mind is the Travis of 2016 who looked like a smaller version of Billy Butler with a far better glove. This spring Travis will be on the back burner since he is fast becoming just an afterthought for 2019, but a good spring and a strong start at Pawtucket could change that.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will make roster moves and I doubt they are ready to pack it in on Travis. The potential is there and the team will do everything possible to extract the best return possible if Travis’ game is accelerated and his trade chip value increases. Hopefully, he’ll get his shot here or elsewhere just like Swihart.