Heading into the 2013 season, Devon Travis was slated as the #42 prospect in the Detroit Tigers system by the terrific staff of TigsTown. The ranking may raise an eyebrow or two now (especially since he’s been named the #2 prospect in the organization by Baseball America), but the accompanying blurb remains spot-on (to be clear, I’m not heaping scorn on last year’s TigsTown ranking, just the opposite):
Travis is a quality hitter with gap power and a mature approach. His below-average speed limits his range at second base but he has some of the best hands in the entire system and is considered a very good defender. He will have to hit at every stop on the minor league ladder, but he has the potential to do just that.
You could pretty much just copy and paste that heading into this season. Nothing has likely changed with respect to his major league ceiling, except maybe the probability of him actually hitting it. He’s certainly become one of the most intriguing names to follow in the minor league system.
Travis would seem to be able to handle the second base position without much difficulty, but he’s not particularly rangy or speedy, and he’s not going to bring a ton of value outside of what he can do with his bat.
He was seen as a fringy sort of prospect that would need to hit to succeed, but no one thought he would hit just as well as some of the most elite prospects in the game last year.
Here’s the top two hitters (by wRC+) of anyone who had at least 200 PA in the Midwest League last year:
Byron Buxton, 176 wRC+
Devon Travis, 160 wRC+
And here’s the top two hitters of anyone who had at least 200 PA in the Florida State League last year:
Miguel Sano, 203 wRC+
Devon Travis, 174 wRC+
Buxton (19) and Sano (20) were both younger than Travis (22), but it says something that the only players to out-hit him at either of his stops a season ago were two of the very top prospects in the game. Travis won’t be Sano or Buxton going forward – they were both young for their respective levels while Travis was fairly average – but he was one of the elite hitters in the low minors.
Travis still has a lot to prove as he works his way into the upper minors – it will be interesting to see what happens if his BABIP falls from the .370’s – but he’s shown an average walk rate, a better than average strikeout rate, and a surprising bit of home run power (16 last year) thus far. Even if we forced his 2013 BABIP all the way down to .300, his adjusted OPS would still have sat right around .800, and even that would have been good enough to improve his stock significantly heading into the 2014 season.