I was sitting in a bar in Pittsburgh, checking my Twitter feed tonight, enjoying the mild buzz from a nice, 9% alcohol beer and lo and behold, the Blue Jays actually did something to warrant me staying up and putting fingers to keyboard to produce a blog!
What did the Blue Jays do, you ask (if you haven’t heard already but, if I may be blunt, the fact that you’re reading this blog means that you’ve probably already heard). The Blue Jays traded long time project and former highly touted prospect, center fielder Anthony Gose to the Tigers for current Tigers top prospect (according to Baseball America), second baseman Devon Travis.
First, let’s talk about Anthony Gose. I’ve seen Anthony play several times in person and the tools have always been there. With a swing that can produce line drives, speed to burn, tremendous range and instincts in the outfield and a cannon of an arm, Gose should have been able to put things together. But he didn’t, at least at the major league level. In about a season’s worth of plate appearances (over 202 games across three seasons), Gose hit .234/.301/.332 for the Blue Jays and stole 34 bases in 45 attempts with 170 strikeouts. Obviously, not the type of offense that you want from your every day center fielder. There was talk about the Blue Jays going into the 2015 season with Gose and Kevin Pillar platooning in center field although Gose’s platoon splits weren’t tremendous either, hitting .241/.316/.350 in 483 plate appearances against right-handed pitching (he’s a left-handed hitter).
Having seen Gose play a fair bit in Buffalo as well as in Toronto, my biggest concern is that he never walked enough and really seemed to struggle against breaking balls. While he did seem to have a better idea of what he was doing at the plate in 2014 (posting a solid walk rate of 9.1%, the best in his major league career), he still struck out 27% of the time, up from his 2013 Blue Jays stint in which he struck out 24.2% of the time.
Devon Travis, on the other hand, gets very solid scouting reports from MLB.com, which ranks him as the Tigers’ fourth-best prospect (although he’ll probably come in around 8th in the Blue Jays’ system, which is far better stocked in terms of minor league talent) while Baseball America ($) ranks him first. MLB likes his hit and run tools the best, giving them both 60 grades (on the 20-80 scale with 50 being major league average). Travis posted very solid numbers in 100 games in Double-A Erie, hitting .298 with a very good .358 OBP and a .460 slugging percentage, hitting 20 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs. What impresses me is the 60 strikeouts in 441 plate appearances to give him a very low 13.6% rate. To compare, against similar competition at the Double-A level, Anthony Gose struck almost twice as much.
I really like Travis’ “hit” tool from what I’ve read about him with Ben Badler at Baseball America giving him a 60 grade for that tool as well. The criticism that I’ve seen a few times is that nothing really stands out about him but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to become a major league player. There are many major leaguers that don’t have a particular tool that stands out but they’re able to use solid, major league average tools that play up because of a high intelligence and good baseball sense. Ben Badler’s optimism is pretty encouraging as he says that “even if Travis doesn’t hit that upside, he still has a chance to turn into a steady, average everyday player.” That’s better than anything the Blue Jays have at second base in their system right now.
The other thing that this trade means is that Dalton Pompey, unless the Jays make another move, moves to the front of the line to be the Opening Day 2015 center fielder. While he’s not as good of a pure center fielder than Anthony Gose is, that’s hardly a criticism because almost nobody is. Pompey certainly has the defensive resume, having won a minor league Gold Glove in 2013 as the best defensive center fielder in all of minor league baseball. He’s also got much more baseball savvy at the plate. As a switch hitter, he can play against both righties and lefties and, is one of the most mature base stealers in the Blue Jays’ organization with plus speed. He’s far more likely to have a better stolen base percentage than Gose as a major leaguer when both of their careers are all over with. Oh, and he’s Canadian.
Travis will likely man second base in Buffalo to start the year, moving Ryan Goins back over to shortstop and putting Jonathan Diaz into a utility role. The Blue Jays haven’t hesitated to promote their players in the last couple of years and if Travis comes out hitting well, he could make the big league squad by June.
If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.