We roll along with our review of the 2018 San Diego Padres season by taking a dive into the year Travis Jankowski had at the plate and in the field.
What a season for San Diego Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski. The 27-year-old left-handed hitter had the best season of his career in 2018, cementing his future role with the team, looking ahead to 2019.
His base stat line doesn’t look that impressive, hitting .259 with a .332 on-base percentage, four home runs, 12 doubles, and 17 runs driven in. However, if you dive a little deeper, you see exactly why Travis Jankowski is one of the best fourth-outfield options in baseball. The Seattle Mariners already came calling for his services at this year’s trade deadline and other suitors are sure to come calling, but AJ Preller needs to keep Jankowski on this roster.
The biggest contribution Jankowski brings to this team is something it severely lacks, speed. He led the team in stolen bases with 24, swiping bags at a 77% success rate. Wil Myers and Manuel Margot were the only other Padres to reach double digits in stolen bases, however, Margot’s baserunning left a lot to be desired, while Jankowski was fantastic on the basepaths.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Jankowski finished this season with a 4.5 BRR (baserunning metric) that includes stolen base success, ability to advance on groundballs/flyballs, and ability to stretch out extra-base hits. His 4.5 rating was good for 9th best in all of baseball, ahead of players like Mallex Smith, Lorenzo Cain, and Mookie Betts. Jankowski’s stellar base running wasn’t a false belief, after watching Manuel Margot and Jose Pirela (one of the worst baserunners in Major League Baseball), Jankowski really was one of the best out there.
At the plate, Jankowski showed big improvements in a few different areas. Let’s compare to his 2016 numbers (four fewer plate appearances than 2018) since he appeared in just 27 games last year. His strikeout rate dropped from 26% to just under 19%.
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His chase rate dropped nearly 3%, down to 18.7%, compared to a 28.2% league average. This help explains another positive skill that Jankowski brings to the organization, patience. His 22% first pitch swing rate was 6% lower than the league average. However, it wasn’t always roses for Jankowski and his plus-plus hair.
The lefty struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers, hitting just .188 this season and had just three extra-base hits, all doubles. Versus right-handed pitchers, Jankowski hit .276 and reached base at a .345 clip. His OPS was nearly 200 points higher against RHP, finishing with a .716 OPS against RHP.
Speed, solid against RHP, and stellar defense at all three outfield positions. That’s what Jankowski brings to the table and why it will be more beneficial for the San Diego Padres to keep him on the roster in 2019. After AJ Preller’s interaction with the Seattle Mariners, saying that they had no top-level prospects worth discussing, it’s obvious that Preller places a high value on Jankowski. Should he continue stealing time away from Manuel Margot, absolutely not. Putting Jankowski in his appropriate role will allow him to flourish and show that few other teams have a player like him on their bench, who can come in during late innings and change the outcome of any baseball game.
Next up in our series, we dive into a very valuable piece of the 2018 puzzle and pending free agent, catcher A.J. Ellis.