Article Written by Jeremy Bell (@Rainmanjab)
Devon Travis has gotten hurt.
A few times.
We all get it by now!
Devon Travis can spray the ball all over the field, go yard, play good defense, and hit for great average.
DEVON TRAVIS IS A REAL GOOD BASEBALL PLAYER!
Most of these statements are hard to argue with. The 27 year old second baseman is in his fourth year with the Blue Jays and undoubtedly needs to have a good healthy year for his sake. But do the Jays need him to have a resurgent season to compete this year and beyond? With the roster moves made by Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins this offseason, is Toronto in dire need of Travis to be a major part of this team?
Last season Darwin Barney played 73 games at second, Ryan Goins played 56, and just 50 from Travis (let's do our best to forget the 18 games by Rob Refsnyder). It wasn't the game plan for the season, I’m sure. This offseason, the management team solidified the middle infield depth by adding Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz behind Travis and Tulowitzki. The two newcomers replaced Barney and Goins on the roster. Both players, according to management, can both play second if called upon; although Diaz only has 2 career games at second, playing mostly short-stop for his short career. Solarte has 140 games at second but can (and has) played nearly any position on the field. Although neither player may be a fielding equivalent to the Gold Glove winning Barney or the above average glove of Goins, both can handle themselves as shown by the beautiful double play turned in Game 1 of Spring Training. Where the upgrade will be most felt is at the plate where both of the new guys are better with the bat than the two departed defensive specialists.
So why is Travis' resurgence such a big deal to the Jays then if they have better replacements? The effect of Devon being in the lineup every day (or most) begins in the batters box at the beginning of each day. With no traditional lead-off hitter in this lineup, the Jays will be reliant on Travis to get this team going with his career .292 BA and .792 OBP. Add to that his pop (24 career HRs when healthy) in the subsequent innings can drive in the guys at the bottom of the lineup and he makes this lineup scary. Although there are a few players that could vie for the lead-off spot - such as Pillar or Granderson - Devon seems to be the best fit for the job.
So then becomes the effect that him being in the lineup does for the rest of the team in the field and the bench. Having second base covered for a good portion of the year frees up Solarte to cover the other spots around the diamond. With Josh Donaldson showing some signs of being human last year, he may need some days off this season. Solarte has played the majority of his games at third (320 appearances at the hot corner) and sports a nice .959 fielding percentage there. There's also a chance that both Tulo and Diaz end up on the DL at the same time, thereby making Solarte a necessity (he's played 36 games at short). If Smoak gets hurt, Morales may not be a long term answer at first... Guess who has 38 games at first?
All of this is only possible if Travis is healthy and contributing. With Travis' main replacement being the super utility guy, it seems crucial that Travis stays in the lineup on most days. The Jays only have Gift Ngoepe as a viable major league ready second basement at the moment, so again it all starts with Travis.
Although many are writing the Jays off so early in the season with the powerhouse AL East in the foreground, some feel like they can compete for a Wildcard spot. Once the playoffs begin, anything can happen and it's not always the best team but the hottest team that wins the World Series. If Devon Travis can rebound and put up great numbers throughout the entire season, it will go a long way in determining how this season goes for Toronto. Hopefully this happens for this young man who seems like a generally decent guy and a main part of the Blue Jays team this year and the future.
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