By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
2016 season (Majors): 101 G, 410 AB, .300 BA, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 4 SB, 785 OPS
You don’t often see a 13th round draft pick rise up the Minor Leagues and have such immediate success in the Major Leagues as Devon Travis. The 26-year-old second baseman is entering his third full season in the bigs, and it’s somewhat of a make or break year returning from offseason knee surgery.
With a .317/.381/.474 line in 277 Minor Leagues games spread over five seasons, Travis has nothing left to prove and has established himself as a big league player over two injury-marred seasons with the Blue Jays. In what amounts to basically one full season over two years, Travis has 46 doubles, 19 home runs, 85 RBIs and a .301/.342/.469 line in Toronto. The one thing that’s kept him from becoming one of the top-tier second basemen in baseball has been injuries.
Acquired in a trade with the Detroit TIgers for outfielder Anthony Gose in the offseason before the 2015 season, Travis earned a starting job with the Blue Jays out of Spring Training and never skipped a beat. He immediately showed off his patience, a high average and surprising power for a 5-foot-9, 190-pound second baseman. It was smooth sailing through the summer until Travis had left shoulder inflammation in late July. He never returned, and it was discovered that he needed surgery.
Travis was unable to return to the Blue Jays until late May last year. When he came back he retook the second base job and his spot at the top of Toronto’s lineup. He missed some time in August with a hand injury and shoulder pain kept him out of a few games in September before a knee injury caused him to miss some playoff games. In the offseason, Travis needed surgery to remove a flap of cartilage from his right knee, and he is still recovering early into Spring Training.
While expected to be ready to return this spring and start the regular season, it remains to be seen if Travis can shed the injury-prone label that he has earned in his short career. Should he remain healthy, there’s no reason to believe he can’t establish himself as one of the suddenly many young stars at the keystone position.
When at his best, Travis is an ideal table-setter for a powerful Blue Jays lineup. His .317 wOBA (weighted on-base average) ranked in the top half of second basemen last year and he was one of six at his position to finish with a batting average of .300 or higher. While Travis has just seven steals in his big league career, he did steal 30 bases over two seasons in the Minors when he was with the Tigers. A full, healthy season could yield 10-15 steals depending on how often the Blue Jays want him to run.
Travis will be monitored closely this spring and throughout the year, but if he avoids the injuries, ZiPS projections of 15 homers, 29 doubles and a .284/.330/.463 line will be easily attainable.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.