Aside from enjoying my time at a beautiful minor league ballpark and downtown, I found another great aspect of Greenville, S.C.: Sam Travis' hitting ability.
Travis was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the second round this past June out of Indiana. He was popped for his bat, because he's a corner infielder likely relegated to first base only. He doesn't have the typical body for a power-hitting first baseman, standing 6-feet and 195 pounds, but he also doesn't have the athleticism or footwork for another position. So the bat must carry his value.
While there is some risk in drafting a bat-first corner guy as high as the second round, Travis' hit tool and power potential are more than enough to quiet my concerns.
Travis works from a slightly open and crouched stance. He stands a little more upright now than he did a couple years ago, and the lift and separation are more evident than ever. He has simultaneous triggers in a small toe tap and hand hitch. The hitch drifts his hands to the plate a touch, but his hands are so strong, they make up for it with legit bat speed to keep his hands inside the ball.
Travis shifts his weight well and fires his hips in a timely manner, for the most part. His hands can get behind the hips at times, causing him to struggle getting around on velo. He might have to tone down the hitch in the future. Judging by past video, it appears the hitch has become more pronounced the past couple years. It only seems to affect him against inside/high velo, because he's able to cover the plate well.
He shows good pitch recognition. He battles and shows more than just a power/strikeout guy. He'll go the other way and settle for hard singles to right field if he doesn't get the pitch he wants. The next at-bat, he'll rope a double down the left field line by cheating to velo and showing bat speed.
Travis is an all-around hitter with a 6-potential hit tool. The bat speed and hand strength are legit, and he covers the plate to spray the ball with authority. His contact was louder than everyone else's on the field. He has current 6 raw power that plays in-game because of contact ability and excellent leverage in the swing. He shows signs of being able to feast on lower-level pitching, so he should move through the Red Sox system quickly. He might not face a test until Double-A.
Travis doesn't get a good first step on ground balls, so he's likely limited to first base. I've read he's capable of filling in at third base, but it probably won't be a permanent option because of the footwork. The glove seems adequate. He has an average arm for first base but wouldn't play well at third. Because of his size, speed is more of a factor than most power-hitting first basemen. I clocked him at 4.3 to first, giving him average run. He could steal a few bags in his career, but speed will never be a big part of his game
Travis will need to hit, and hit a lot, to carry his value. Because of an advanced feel for the barrel and plus power that plays in-game, he should hit in the upper levels. He could be a 20-30-homer guy with contact ability that produces a respectable average. If Fenway Park becomes his home ballpark, his numbers could reach their potential much easier.
The same night Travis made his Greenville debut, another second-round pick shined in his own way. Boston 2013 second-rounder Teddy Stankiewicz had one of his better outings this season, allowing one run on three hits with six strikeouts in six innings.
Stankiewicz sat 91-94 and touched 95 with slight run. His fastball is more about life than movement. It jumps when he stays on top of it. He shows good command and lives in the zone effectively when he gets plane. He struggles maintaining downhill plane because of steep drop and drive, and he fights for good angle because of spine tilt. The fastball plays down when his release point drops, but it's a plus-potential pitch. He showed #want by pumping 94 on the black in a two-strike count in the sixth inning.
His slider is the better secondary and profiles as his most reliable. It was 83-85 with three-quarters tilt. It shows decent depth and has two-plane break. Stankiewicz has better command and more confidence with the pitch against right-handed batters. His command of the pitch was solid in this start, which helped produce several whiffs. It's presently average with plus potential.
Stankiewicz showed a better curveball this start than when I saw him in May. It flashed average and could become a consistently average pitch in the future with further development, but it's a safe future 4+. He lacks consistent feel for it and struggled spotting it, but the shape and depth were better this time. When he snaps a good one, it has downward bite at 73-75. Depth is better in lower-70s. He needs to avoid high spinners that break early, which comes with better feel.
His changeup has a chance to be the better change of pace as a third offering, but I've yet to see him have consistent feel for it. As in May, the pitch was firm and straight more often than not. It flashed average with some fade when he turned it over. The separation and arm action are good, which helps up the projection. Like the curve, it's about feel. The projection is there to be an average pitch.
Stankiewicz has an excellent starter's body with some projection remaining. He's long and athletic, and he has the leg strength to throw a full season.
Stankiewicz has the arsenal to start long-term, highlighted by a strong fastball with surprisingly good command. I'm not crazy about the mechanics, especially the heavy drop-and-drive that affects his release point and command of his secondaries. Because of this issue, it limits his overall future potential. But it should work in the future if he can stay on the top of the ball and maintain his plane more often. I stand by a 3 ceiling and realistic 4/5.
Taveras is a wild card reliever at 21 years old. He has a live arm that produces a fastball at 91-95, touching 96 with heavy life from a three-quarters slot. His slider is 82-84 with above-average potential. The depth and bite are short, which limits its future. Taveras hasn't had that many walk issues, but he's a thrower and probably always will be. He has mid-reliever potential.
McGrath gets the most from pedestrian stuff with good command and deception. He has a quirky delivery from the left side that works. His fastball was 84-87 with the ability to cut, and he spotted it well to the arm side. He needs to work inside with better command in the future. His changeup is a good secondary with above-average potential. He shows good arm action and feel for it at 76-78 with deep fade. His curveball is show-me material. McGrath's future role is likely long relief.