Travis Shaw, a 24-year-old corner infielder, enters 2015 without a clear path to the majors, and, as a middle-of-the-road prospect, there’s some question as to whether he’ll ever develop into an impactful big leaguer. But Shaw showed Wednesday why he’s worth keeping an eye on as the Red Sox progress through camp, even if he’ll ultimately spend most, if not all, of this season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Shaw, a left-handed hitter, drilled a solo homer off left-hander Andrew Miller in the third inning of the Red Sox’s 10-6 win over the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. He jumped on an inside fastball and ripped it down the line, depositing it into the seats in about 0.0001 seconds flat.
The home run itself was rather insignificant. There have been 200 homers belted across Major League Baseball this spring entering Thursday’s action. And given that most pitchers still are shaking off the rust, it’d be foolish to put too much stock into Shaw going yard off one of the league’s best late-inning lefties.
But Shaw supplemented the homer with a two-run double into the left-center field gap off right-hander Bryan Mitchell an inning later. He stayed on a pitch located on the outside corner and drove it the other way with power.
“Impressive,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Tampa. “He had a little bit of a breakout year last year. I think it was more of him knowing himself as a hitter. Seeing him year over year, he’s much more comfortable in this environment.”
Even with Wednesday’s two-hit, three-RBI performance, Shaw isn’t exactly on the cusp of major league stardom. It’s OK to consider the effort an eye-opener, though, because Shaw’s big league arrival could come sooner than expected based on how Boston’s other dominoes fall in the coming months.
First baseman Mike Napoli is set to become a free agent next offseason, meaning some long-term questions inherently surround the position. Of course, Napoli, who turns 34 on Halloween, could re-sign with Boston, or the club could turn to another internal candidate — Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez, perhaps — to change positions and man first base. But Shaw, who turns 25 in April, is a name worth keeping on the back burner, especially given that he possesses one trait very much in demand: power.
Shaw hit 21 homers in 128 games last season split between Triple-A and Double-A Portland. He drove in 78 runs and posted an .826 OPS split between the two levels. While there’s some swing and miss in Shaw’s game, evidenced by his 331 strikeouts in 385 games the last three seasons, there’s also some obvious potential for someone whose future likely resides at first base yet also could include occasional hot corner work.
The Red Sox added Shaw to their 40-man roster over the offseason in a move geared toward protecting the first baseman/third baseman from the Rule 5 draft. It’s noteworthy in that, assuming Shaw remains on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox will be able to call him up this season with relative ease, as they won’t be required to make a corresponding roster move to clear a spot on the 40-man.
This isn’t to say you’ll see Shaw in Boston in 2015, but it’s possible if a need suddenly arises. And a 2016 call-up absolutely is in play if Shaw continues to make strides in the minors this season, just as he has since entering the organization as a ninth-round draft pick in 2011.
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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