In a year where the price to acquire pitching has reached an all time high on the trade market, the Braves have flipped a pair of previously unwanted mid-season additions for a guy who played in the 2016 Futures Game. Here’s a closer look at that player, second baseman Travis Demeritte.
A few months ago if you were to say the Braves signed a guy off the street as an in-season minor league free agent(Lucas Harrell) along with an in-season waiver wire addition(Dario Alvarez) for a bat with both production and upside, people would have laughed at you. Then the Ken Giles, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, and Aroldis Chapman deals changed everything. It’s become impossible for a big league club to bolster their pitching staff for a pennant run without parting with a real prospect.
The Braves may have become the biggest benefactor in this market when they shipped Harrell and Alvarez to the Rangers for second baseman Travis Demeritte. The Winder, Georgia native has some very impressive accomplishments on his resume. Not only was Demeritte a participant in the 2016 Futures Game, but he was also a first round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.
Demeritte debuted in the Arizona League after being drafted in 2013, playing in 39 games. He was drafted as a shortstop and played mostly shortstop with some third base here but it became clear that he wasn’t a shortstop. His overall batting line was strong at .285/.411/.444 with four homers, but he did strikeout 49 times in 175 plate appearances. The strikeout rate looks very high at 28%, and this was actually the best strikeout rate he’s posted in his career.
Demeritte moved up to play with one of the most loaded lineups in the minors with Hickory in 2014.. He was surrounded by Lewis Brinson, Jairo Beras, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Cordell, and current big leaguer Nomar Mazara to name a few of the guys on that team. Still he managed to hit just .211/.310/.450 with 25 homers. The power was very much present with 43 extra base hits, but he struck out 171 times in 466 plate appearances- a 36.7% rate. The Rangers realized that he was best defensively at second and that’s where he played the bulk of the season as he made 13 errors in 92 games.
This was a very forgettable season for Demeritte. He returned to Hickory to repeat the level and was a little better despite not showing as much power, but then in early June he was popped for an 80 game PED suspension for taking a masking agent. He played 53 games on the year, including five on a rehab assignment with Spokane and hit a combined .232/.332/.384 with five homers- but did steal 10 bases. He struck out 80 times in 220 plate appearances, a 36.4% rate. The one positive was that he gained some comfort with his new defensive home, making just one error in 48 games at second base.
In order to make up some of the time he missed due to the suspension he went to play winter ball in Australia. Things weren’t a lot better for him in the land down under, as he hit just .216/.320/.401 with five homers in 47 games.
Demeritte put his 2015 struggles with power and suspension behind him early on in 2016 as he hit two homers on Opening Day and then hit two more on the very next night. Overall in 88 games with High A affiliate High Desert he’s hit .272/.352/.583 with 25 homers and 13 steals. He’s also struck out 125 times in 378 plate appearances for a 33.1% rate. It’s very important to note that he produced those numbers in an extremely hitter friendly league, the California League, but at the same time there isn’t much more you could ask him to produce there since he has those 25 homers to go with 20 doubles and four triples for an insane 49 extra base hits in 88 games.
So who is Travis Demeritte? The numbers say that he’s a solid defensive second baseman with decent speed and big power. He’s also a guy with a ton of swing and miss in his game. While that statline scouting report is actually a fairly accurate report there is more to him. Here’s a YouTube scouting video clip from FanRag Sports Bobby DeMuro from last month.
Demeritte is a 21 year old right handed hitting and throwing second baseman with a 6’0” 180 pound frame. His athleticism is also an under-rated part of his ability, which is how he’s able to steal a handful of bases and play quality defense. If you want to see a strong defensive play from him the play he made at the Futures Game shows what kind of defender he can be.
Demeritte hits right handers a little better than he does lefties, but it’s not a major difference to the point where he profiles as a platoon bat. He’s capable of using the whole field, but does pull the ball more often than anything else. He’s also not one to use the gaps often, though his game isn’t about the doubles into the gaps. Below you can see his heat map courtesy of MLBFarm.
Demeritte simply doesn’t make enough contact right now and will need to fix that in order to eventually help the Braves, as more advanced pitchers will be able to exploit him even more. He’s also likely to see his power numbers drop a bit over the remainder of the season, just due to the fact that the Carolina League isn’t close to as hitter friendly as the California League. So for all of the positive, there is real negative with him too.
Improving on the strikeouts and making better overall contact isn’t out of the question for him. Cubs young super utility guy Javier Baez also posted big power numbers and strikeouts through the minors, but has adjusted and is a real contributor for the Cubs today. Demeritte doesn’t have the overall talent and hit tool of Baez, but Baez is a roadmap that Demeritte can follow as he tries to tone things in his swing down a bit.
Demeritte may strike out a ton and has to make better contact, but the power is undeniable. It’s not likely he makes enough contact to hit high in the order, but he could certainly be a Dan Uggla type of hitter who hits sixth in the order and supplies power. That would be a best case scenario if he continues to grow as a hitter. Though if he doesn’t progress enough to play every day, he can be utility guy with right handed power off the bench.
He is hardly a sure thing big leaguer, but he’s an amazing return for what the Braves gave up. Not only is Demeritte a talent, but his power is the tool which the Braves system needed to add more of than any other tool. So the Braves landed a player in an area of need with big power for a pair of guys that no one else wanted a couple of months ago.