Keith Law released his top 10 prospect lists for each organization with a brief breakdown of the system as a whole to go along with it. One section in the break down was prospects that could contribute in 2015. For the Padres, predictably one was starter Casey Kelly, who Law ranked at 4th in the San Diego Padres‘ system and has already made six big league starts. The other was a lot more surprising, center fielder Travis Jankowski.
When thinking about prospects who could make an impact on the big league club, it’s more common to look at guys who’ve been in the system for a good period of time, have reached Triple-A or even the majors and are coming off a good season the year prior. Jankowski fills none of those requirements. The 2012 first round pick has only played 29 games at Double-A, his highest level, and only one full season in the system back in 2013. Last season was cut short when he broke his wrist crashing into to the center field wall to make a catch.
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So why does Keith Law believe this 23-year old may have a chance to carve out a role among the crowded group of outfielders on the 2015 Padres? Here’s what Law had to say in his own words.
"“Travis Jankowski is the best defensive center fielder in the organization, and if they really intend to play Myers out there every day, Jankowski would be very useful as a defensive replacement/pinch runner off the bench.”"
This makes a lot more sense than the Padres rushing along a guy whose bat hadn’t developed fully yet all the way to the big leagues. The Padres outfield defense is arguably the biggest concern the team has right now, due to the fact that there’s no true center fielder on the roster. Using Jankowski as a late-inning replacement to help solve this issue in the most critical moments of the game would be a huge bonus. In Petco, his range could help close out ball games, and in a tough division, every win counts. To see his great glove in action, watch the play where he broke his wrist.
Defense like that (sans the season-ending injury part of course) would be a massive upgrade late in games where the need will be the greatest.
Another selling point is he’s a left-handed hitter, something the Padres lack dearly. Unfortunately it’s far from big league ready. With just two home runs in 229 minor league games, and a minor league career OPS of .683, it’s hard to see any of that translating over well to the majors especially when most of his at-bats have come from A ball.
One area he could help on the offensive end would be his speed. In his only full season, 2013, Jankowski swiped 71 bases in 85 attempts. Overall in his minor league career, he’s 105-for-129. That’s elite base stealing skills, and while big league catchers do have better arms than most low level minor leaguers, speed is something that will always translate at any level. This makes him even more of a late inning weapon for Bud Black, as he could change the game on the base paths as well close it out in the field.
Overall though, the Padres are not likely going to relegate a first round pick with only one full season in the minors to a bench role. While it is in the majors, it’s sentencing him to that role for life. He still needs a lot of time to work on his hitting, and he’ll need at least a full season at both Double-A and Triple-A before he’d even be thought of as big league ready, provided he doesn’t have a monster 2015 from the plate.
Where he may help the major league roster would be in September and October. The past two seasons we’ve seen playoff teams call up a guy not deserving of a roster spot, give them one strictly for their speed and in one case defense. In 2013 it was the World Series Champion Red Sox who utilized Quintin Berry in this role and last Jarrod Dyson had this role with the Royals. If the Padres are still in the hunt come September, be prepared to see Jankowski get a chance to shine, and if they reach the postseason, expect him to shine even more.
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