BOSTON — Finding a first baseman figures to be on Dave Dombrowski’s offseason to-do list. The new Red Sox president of baseball operations might not need to look far.
While Travis Shaw’s current hot streak hardly guarantees he’ll open the 2016 season with the Red Sox, the 25-year-old is making an impression at a perfect time. Shaw, at the very least, could add intrigue to Dombrowski’s search for a first baseman this winter by carrying his success down the stretch.
“I just try to come here every day and prove something, especially to the new boss, and prove that I belong up here,” Shaw said after Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. “I’ve put myself in a good spot going forward. Offensively, defensively, I try to do anything I can to help this team win.”
Shaw sure has left his mark since his most recent call-up. And he continued to turn heads — maybe even Dombrowski’s? — Thursday night when he went 2-for-3 with a double, a single and a bases-loaded walk that kicked off Boston’s scoring. He’s reached base at least twice in each of his last five games, and he’s reached base at least three times in four of his last seven.
“I heard him say the other day that things are just clicking. Things are moving in a good direction for him. He feels like he’s seeing the ball very, very well,” acting Red Sox manager Torey Lovullo said. “And those are little runs that every player wants to get on.”
Shaw is hitting .500 (15-for-30) with four home runs, two doubles and a .967 slugging percentage over his last seven games. He’s hitting .382 with six homers, 12 RBIs, a .427 on-base percentage and a .691 slugging percentage in 75 plate appearances spanning 24 games this season.
It’s a remarkable beginning to Shaw’s major league career, especially given that he typically has been considered a middle-of-the-road prospect. He has pop, but Shaw batted just .249 with a .318 on-base percentage in 322 plate appearances this season for Triple-A Pawtucket.
“I try not to do too much. I know who I am as a hitter now,” Shaw said. “Everything’s kind of just clicked since I’ve been up here and I’m just trying to ride the wave as long as I can.”
Perhaps a “wave” is all it is. After all, plenty of players have started their careers with hot streaks only to fizzle out over time, typically as pitchers begin to make adjustments and attack their weaknesses. But with no clear successor to Mike Napoli (traded to the Texas Rangers earlier this month) in place and seemingly a thin first base market from which to choose this offseason, Shaw could find himself in the conversation for a job next season if he continues to take advantage of his current opportunity.
“I think that a six-week look for somebody at this point in time in the season is a pretty long look, especially with some of these teams that are going to be coming in in the AL East that are in a race. So we certainly will weigh everything,” Lovullo said of whether he thinks Shaw could win a job for 2016 with a strong finish to the 2015 season. “We’re going to add it all up at the end of this year and kind of move forward. But those are discussions that we’ll have as a group and we’re going to make the best decision moving forward for him and the Boston Red Sox.”
The Red Sox are in the midst of a very important evaluation process for 2016. No player — outside of maybe Jackie Bradley Jr. — is capitalizing on the unique situation quite like Shaw.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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