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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Travis Lakins looks to take the final step

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The right-handed reliever should get a real chance to contribute in 2019.

Travis Lakins
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

After an incredibly close vote to determine the last spot in our top prospect list, the vote for the number 15 spot was an absolute runaway. It’s no surprise as, after Jarren Duran just barely squeezed out a victory for the 14th spot, the man he was racing there took the 15th spot with ease. That would be Travis Lakins, who received 19 of 33 (58 percent) of the votes.

Lakins had a bit of helium heading into the spring of 2015 at Ohio State as he was poised to be one of the best pitching prospects that school had produced in recent memory. The righty impressed scouts in the previous summer and fall, and everyone was ready to see how it would translate in the real games. Things didn’t go according to plan, though, as the stuff wasn’t as sharp and his velocity had dropped somewhat significantly, knocking his stock a bit. Between the drop in stuff and his small stature that had many worried about how he’d hold up in a starter’s role, Lakins fell to the fifth round, where the Red Sox scooped him up. He would toss a couple innings in Lowell and a few in the GCL playoffs that season, but for the most part he didn’t get his career started until 2016.

What we saw from Lakins over the next couple of seasons showed some of the concerns scouts had heading into that 2015 draft. Specifically, he just couldn’t stay healthy as a starter. Listed at 6’1” 170 pounds, his body was having trouble holding up over a full season. In 2016, he made 19 appearances (18 starts) and tossed 91 innings before suffering a stress fracture in his right elbow, which ended his season prematurely. He’d come back after a late start in 2017, but after only 15 starts he suffered another fracture and for the second straight year his season ended prematurely. On top of the injuries, the numbers weren’t great with his only strong showing coming in seven starts in High-A in his second full season. For a college pitcher, you hope to be beyond that point by your second season.

So, heading into 2018 there were some questions. Despite some poor results in the pros — Lakins pitched to a 5.93 ERA in 2016 and to a 6.23 ERA in eight starts with Portland in 2017 — there were some flashes and still some hope the former Ohio State ace would develop into something useful in the future. Sure enough, the Red Sox decided to change course. His 2018 was delayed as he recovered from the previous year’s injury, and once he came back he did make a few starts. However, each only lasted three innings, and after that he was shifted into a full-time relief role. From here, he took off. Lakins made 20 relief appearances with Portland and pitched to a ridiculous 0.86 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Then, after a promotion to Pawtucket, he pitched to a 1.65 ERA in Triple-A over 16 23 innings with 15 strikeouts. Many, myself included, wanted to see him get a chance in September, but Lakins is still waiting for his major-league debut.

Travis Lakins
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

The righty is not really the type of reliever we’ve gotten used to around the league over the last few years. Instead of pairing a huge fastball and a devastating breaking ball, Lakins boasts four pitches that could be average or better. One of those is a big fastball that can get up to the upper-90s in shorter stints. Beyond that he throws both a cutter and a slider, which share similar movement but come in at different speeds, as well as a curveball and a changeup that may be scrapped. The repertoire was never the issue for starting, and it carries over to his relief profile. However, the arsenal is not a finished product, as he needs to work on commanding all of his pitches in any situation.

Lakins is on the 40-man roster and was in major-league camp, but recently got demoted back down to Triple-A. That is where he is going to start the 2019 season, and he’ll use the first few weeks to jockey for position on the depth chart. Eventually, the Red Sox will need help in the bullpen, though, and as long as he can stay healthy there is a good chance Lakins will get a chance to perform and stick in the majors.

Here is our full list so far:

  1. Michael Chavis
  2. Darwinzon Hernandez
  3. Triston Casas
  4. Bobby Dalbec
  5. Jay Groome
  6. Tanner Houck
  7. Durbin Feltman
  8. Bryan Mata
  9. Antoni Flores
  10. Mike Shawaryn
  11. C.J. Chatham
  12. Nick Decker
  13. Brandon Howlett
  14. Jarren Duran
  15. Travis Lakins

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number sixteen. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...