Travis Demeritte’s recent power surge in spring training has sent a message to the Detroit Tigers loud and clear – he does not belong in Triple-A
When Cameron Maybin was signed February 12th, it seemed likely that Travis Demeritte would have to start the season in Toledo but in the past week, Demeritte has hit four home runs including two today. While the wind may have been a factor on the second one, they were both off New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. In the spring, Travis is 4-13 and batting .308. While there are stories of Christin Stewart’s off-season diet helping him and Maybin retooling his swing, Demeritte has been the forgotten man on this 40-man on this roster.
It’s easy to see why. After he was acquired from Atlanta, he was inserted into right field in place of the departed Nicholas Castellanos and after a solid first 15 games in which he hit .288/.367/.462 and had 15 hits, his numbers started to drop off. He would hit .200 in the month of September with just three walks after drawing eleven in August. The adjustment to major league played a role in his walks dropping but Travis’s numbers in the minors showed he can walk at a fairly good clip.
In his prior stops at Triple-A Gwinett and Double-A Mississippi, he walked at 12.8% and 11.5% clip rate respectively. The Tigers struggled with walks last year but if you are looking for some positives, among Tigers outfielders, Demeritte would be 3rd next to JaCoby Jones (8.1%) and Christin Stewart (8.2%).
But that’s not his main talent. It’s his power and speed. Twice in Single-A and once in Triple-A, he has hit over 20 home runs and had ISO numbers over .200 three times, including his last season in Triple-A Gwinett. Yes, the International League was using juiced balls but look at the power numbers in Toledo and he would have been second next to Mikie Mahtook in home runs but Mahtook is a major leaguer who was sitting in Toledo because he wasn’t good enough to be on the roster. But I digress.
Demeritte’s versatility to play both corner positions in the outfield make him the perfect case for the 26th man. He played 38 games in left field last year in Triple-A and in 2018 for Mississippi, he played in 119 games in left and prior to that in 2017, he was primarily a second baseman with a few games at third. Christin Stewart is off to a poor start in spring training, batting .067 so it may not be a guarantee Stewart is your starting left fielder come Opening Day. While you can slot Victor Reyes in left, Demeritte’s power upside exceeds Reyes. Maybin only played in 82 games last season and his most recent high in games played was in 2015 with the Braves at 141.
The Tigers should give the 26th spot to Demeritte. The Tigers will again struggle to score runs this season but for Demeritte, who isn’t a prospect anymore, this is a year he can win a job full-time and secure a corner spot for himself with power displays like he did this week.