San Diego Padres Comeback Player Of The Year: Travis Jankowski

SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 7: Travis Jankowski #16 of the San Diego Padres makes a sliding catch on a ball hit by Matt Adams #15 of the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning of a baseball game at PETCO Park on May 7, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 7: Travis Jankowski #16 of the San Diego Padres makes a sliding catch on a ball hit by Matt Adams #15 of the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning of a baseball game at PETCO Park on May 7, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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Travis Jankowski ‘s 2017 season was derailed by injuries, but he has bounced back to have a comeback year for the San Diego Padres.

After losing almost all of 2017 to a fractured foot suffered in April, many San Diego Padres faithful had their doubts about Travis Jankowski‘s place in the team’s plans for the future.  However, Jankowski has had an outstanding comeback season this year, putting him at the forefront of the conversation as to who on this year’s roster has earned a place, moving forward.

Jankowski did not make the opening day roster to begin the season, starting the year in Triple-A with the El Paso Chihuahuas. He was sent down with instructions to simplify his swing and try and put the ball in play more often to utilize his speed. After tweaking his swing, Jankowski was called up to the Padres at the end of April and has been with the team ever since.

After being recalled from El Paso, Jankowski had a breakout month of May, in which he had a slash line of .303/.367/.393 to go along with multiple web gems in the outfield. In addition, Jankowski gave Andy Green the staff comfort in knowing that he could play all three positions in the outfield. He used his elite speed to make hard plays seem easy and bail out multiple Padres pitchers this season.

Since he has been healthy all season, Jankowski has been able to contribute in multiple ways offensively. He has been able to use his speed to steal bases and make a major impact on the basepaths.

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Stealing bases has always been a strength for Jankowski, swiping 24 bags (six caught stealing) in 2018, by far the most on the team. Getting on base and getting into scoring position is crucial for the Padres, who rank last in on-base percentage and runs scored.

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After his phenomenal month of May, Jankowski cooled off but has still posted the highest batting average of his career, to date. He is currently hitting .260, which is right at league average. It is also the highest average of any qualified Padres outfielder this season. Although his playing time has decreased lately with the emergence of Franmil Reyes, and the resurgence of Hunter Renfroe, Jankowski is the perfect fourth outfielder.

Playing winning baseball is something Andy Green looks for in his players, and Jankowski provides that. At just 27 years of age, Freddy-J is still young enough to be with the team when they plan to contend in a few years and can be a veteran presence that the younger players can learn from during the long grind of a 162 game season. His speed and baserunning alone make him a valuable asset to this team, especially in key moments at the end of close games (only regular starter other than Wil Myers with a positive BSR, per Fangraphs).

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There’s little doubt that Travis Jankowski is this year’s San Diego Padres comeback player of the year. He has been able to put his injuries behind him, and put together his best season yet in a Padres uniform. If he can stay consistent over the next few years, Jankowski can provide something different than the rest of the Padres outfielders, and is a valuable building block for the future.