For the first time in his professional career, Red Sox prospect Sam Travis played a position other than first base on Sunday. The 24-year-old, who is playing for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, started and played seven innings in left field while going 1-for-3. He was involved in just one defensive play, fielding a double to left.
Travis, the Red Sox’ second-round pick in the 2014 draft, is hitting .250/.333/.350 through six games of winter ball. He’s coming off a season in which the thrill of his major league debut (he hit .263/.325/.342 in 33 games for the Sox) was qualified to some degree by what Travis viewed as a disappointing overall performance, particularly offensively.
“It’s probably the worst year of my life offensively – simple as that,” Travis said late in the season. “I know I’m going to be better. That’s it.”
Travis hit .270/.351/.375 with six homers in 82 games with Triple A Pawtucket. While evaluators continued to speak highly of his ability to make solid contact – especially on fastballs – and show a solid overall approach, his lack of power for a first baseman raised questions about whether he can profile as an everyday big league corner bat. His .508 slugging percentage in the minors against lefties, compared with a .340 mark against righties, has raised questions about whether his future ultimately will be in a reserve/platoon role. He did make notable defensive strides at first base.
After Travis had his 2016 season cut short in late May by a ruptured ACL, he found some satisfaction in playing a complete, healthy season. He played in 119 games between Pawtucket and Boston – a number that was limited by his reserve role during multiple call-ups to the big leagues, thus creating a desire on the part of both Travis and the Red Sox for him to get additional playing time in winter ball.
As the year progressed, he felt that he returned to “baseball shape – more agile moving around after being on my feet. … To be able to keep that going is, I think, very important going forward.”
The time in the Dominican appears to be serving multiple purposes, giving Travis more opportunities to compete while also broadening his defensive profile in a way that could allow him to factor into the Red Sox’ big league depth equation in multiple ways.
“I’ve got to keep moving, keep being out there, keep playing,” said Travis.
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.