Another round of voting, another blowout. The top three spots were admittedly foregone conclusions, but I foolishly hoped Sam Travis’ injury-shortened 2016 would scare enough people away to make this vote look like something close to a competition. Unfortunately, I’m an idiot. Travis takes the fourth spot in our community rankings, receiving 76 percent of the votes.
The Indiana University product — and Kyle Schwarber’s college teammate — was Boston’s second round selection in 2014. Now that Michael Kopech is in Chicago, Travis is likely to be the most impactful Red Sox player from that draft class. The first baseman was put in Lowell immediately after being drafted, and quickly showed that he was too good for that league. He earned enough trust to get 27 games in Greenville under his belt in his first pro season, and was somehow even better against superior competition. That performance led to him starting his first full season with the organization in Salem, and once again he improved upon his performance at the previous level. He’d end that season in Portland, and while he was slightly worse than he was in Salem, Travis still posted an .821 OPS in Double-A with just 133 professional games under his belt. He followed that up with a .900 OPS in the Arizona Fall League to finish off 2015, and the hype machine was ready to roll.
It’s hard to make waves as a first base prospect, but Travis was certainly doing that. He wasn’t quite threatening to make top-100 lists prior to last season, but he was well regarded by the organization. Obviously, that’s a trade off he’ll take every time. The legend only grew in spring training, as he was one of the best hitters in the Grapefruit League. Among Red Sox players who had at least five at bats, only Marco Hernandez* had a higher OPS than Travis’ 1.147 mark. We all know to take spring training numbers with a grain of salt, but there was legitimate excitement from fans, reporters, teammates and coaches alike. Travis had a shot at making the majors in 2016. He started the year in Pawtucket, and was putting up steady if unspectacular numbers through the first month-plus of the year. Then, disaster struck. Travis tore his ACL at the end of May, and missed the rest of the season.
*Side note: I do not remember Hernandez being that good last spring.
Although the injury knocked back his development and prevented him from potentially taking over as the everyday first baseman for 2017, he’s still on a good track. He’ll start the year in Pawtucket with a chance to be one of the first hitters added to the 40-man should Hanley Ramirez or Mitch Moreland go down with an injury. Personally, I’ve never been a Travis believer, at least compared to the hype he’s gotten over the last 12 months. I’m not a huge believer in the power, and it’s really hard to be a productive first baseman if you rely almost entirely on your hit tool. With that being said, every time I read about him I become more and more convinced he’ll outperform my expectations. I’ve been wrong about prospects more times than I can count, and we’re all hoping this is another one of those instances.
Here’s the list so far:
- Andrew Benintendi
- Rafael Devers
- Jason Groome
- Sam Travis
I know I’ve said it’ll be close every time so far, but that was just to keep everyone excited. Now, I sincerely think we’ll start to get into some interesting battles. As always, vote below.