On Monday, Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis made his Major League debut a week after he was named the team’s starter.
Despite never appearing in a Triple-A game and seeing just 396 at-bats in Double-A, Travis looked plenty ready as he took Chasen Shreve deep and added two runs and two walks against Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees.
Although Travis is largely unknown, has only spent 257 games in the minors, and is an untested commodity, the former No. 84 top prospect’s abilities scream fantasy baseball sleeper.
Travis was drafted in 2012 by the Detroit Tigers and quickly impressed in his first season in Single-A, posting a .351/.418/.518 line with 16 HR, 28 2B, 76 RBI, 93 R, and 22 SB in 132 games. He struck out just 64 times while walking an impressive 53 times.
Last season, Travis moved up to Double-A where he didn’t miss a beat, putting up a .298/.358/.460 line with 10 HR, 37 extra-base hits, 52 RBI, 68 R, and 16 steals in just 100 games. He struck out just 60 times while walking 37.
In the off-season, the Tigers traded Travis to the Jays in exchange for former top-40 prospect Anthony Gose.
In his first spring with Toronto, Travis quickly impressed as he put up a .359/.400/.453 line with six doubles and seven runs batted in over 64 at-bats, winning the starting job after Maicer Izturis went down with a groin injury.
Those are all great numbers and his ability to get on base and terrorize pitchers on the basepaths while adding solid pop is more than welcome at a shallow second base position. Missing from those numbers is what makes the 5-foot-9, 190-pound infielder special though – he plays with a chip on his shoulder much larger than his frame.
“It’s the same stuff I’ve been hearing my whole life. He’s too small,” Travis told the Tallahassee Democrat this past weekend. “When he gets to high school he’ll be overmatched. He won’t be able to handle it. Then if he gets to Florida State he’ll probably sit out a couple of years so he can get stronger. Then it was the same thing leading up to the draft – with the wood bat he’s going to struggle. And little things like that keep you going in the dog days when you’re tired.”
“My dad always told me I wasn’t blessed with size and natural strength,” Travis recalls. “That I had to put in that extra work to get where I wanted to go. I’ve always had that extra motivation. Every rep you take off someone else is taking. There’s someone out there working every single day to be where you are today. For me, that’s what kept me going.”
There’s no stat for hustle in fantasy. There’s no way to measure if a guy wants it more than the next guy. But if there were, Travis would be owned in a lot more than 9 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
There’s a reason Travis has exceeded expectations everywhere he’s been and that’s drive. That’s the kind of guy you want in your fantasy baseball “locker room” – a guy who wants to make good on his potential as much as his fantasy owners.
With that in mind, what can fantasy baseball owners expect from the 24-year-old in his first go-around?
He’s always batted for a high average, whether high school, college, the minors, and spring training so there’s no reason not to expect him to be at at least .270-.280 this season.
He does have power to hit 15-20 home runs despite his size but it’s hard to expect more than 10-13 in his first MLB stint.
There’s no reason he can’t steal 15+ bases while adding double-digit home runs, a solid average, and 50+ runs and RBI. If you need a backup second baseman or you missed out on a starter-caliber middle infielder in your draft, Travis is the guy to target on the waiver wire before he’s gone.