Brewer’s Banter: Is Travis Jankowski A Future Starter for the Padres?

Credit: AP Photo
Credit: AP Photo

The 2016 season hasn’t really been a memorable one on the field for the San Diego Padres. After losing two out of three to the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies at home, the Padres now sit at 48-63 and in fourth place in the National League West. Given the volume of players the Padres traded in-season, including big names such as James Shields, Drew Pomeranz, Melvin Upton, Andrew Cashner, and Matt Kemp, it’s pretty clear where the Padres now stand.

The focus is completely on the future, with the Padres cutting payroll, allocating those resources on the international and draft markets, and getting younger in the process. With the level of talent the team has received through trades, the draft, and international signings, the Padres have quickly turned their farm system around. What was seen as a mediocre farm system lacking in much depth or impact is now a farm system that is among the most highly ranked in baseball, with not only significant amounts of depth, but potential impact players at the top.

When thinking about the next great San Diego Padres ball club, fans think of the likes of Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Javier Guerra, Adrian Morejon, Cal Quantrill, Jorge Ona, and the list goes on. For the first time in quite a long time, there is actual hope to be had in San Diego when looking at the future potential of the Padres.

However, with all this talent down on the farm, there has been one player who has oftentimes gone overlooked to the point where many don’t even see him as a significant part of that Padres future. That player is young outfielder Travis Jankowski.

With the trades of both Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton, and the injury to Jon Jay, Jankowski has found himself in a pretty much everyday role with the Padres for the first time in his young career in San Diego. Given the chance to finally fully showcase his talent, Jankowski has opened up quite a few eyes. After long being labeled as a prototypical fourth outfielder/defensive replacement type, for the first time there is some serious discussion about Jankowski’s capability as an everyday player for the San Diego Padres.

If I had to answer that question right now, I would emphatically say that yes, Travis Jankowski can be an everyday player at the big league level. It may be difficult to find a spot for him giving the presence of not only Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, but Jabari Blash and Alex Dickerson as well, but Jankowski deserves strong consideration. At the big league level, Jankowski has shown the most potential of any of the group, although neither Renfroe or Margot has yet to see big league time. Even so, Jankowski has quietly had a truly eye-opening season to this point.

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When a baseball fan thinks of great center fielders they think of the likes of Mike Trout, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Jim Edmonds, etc. This year baseball has been dominated by the likes of Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, among several others in center field. While it may be hard to believe, Travis Jankowski is the 10th best center fielder in baseball by Fangraphs WAR. Even more surprising, Jankowski has been that good in only 207 plate appearances, less than half the plate appearances of the guys mentioned above this season.

Taking it one step further, Jankowski has been the 6th best defender in center field this season by Fangraphs DEF statistic. His wRC+ of 106 lags behind at 15th among center fielders, but compared to Jon Jay (108 wRC+), it’s clear Jankowski has plenty of potential. Add in Jankowski’s 3.3 BSR (Fangraphs baserunning metric), which puts him seventh among all center fielders, and it’s pretty clear that Jankowski has solidified himself as a productive everyday center field option. Among center fielders with less than 250 plate appearances, Jankowski clearly stands ahead of the pack.

Although he has often gone overlooked in San Diego, Travis Jankowski has all the makings of an everyday option for the Padres not only this season, but going forward as well. Not only has Jankowski been fantastic defensively and on the base paths (including 24 stolen bases, third only to Billy Hamilton and Rajai Davis among center fielders), but he has actually been more impressive at the plate than expected, not only hitting above league average by wRC+ but also walking nearly 15% of the time at getting on base at a .376 clip. The biggest question is to whether Jankowski can keep this kind of performance up over the course of a whole season, but there are plenty of encouraging signs already there.

For the first time in a long time, the Padres have options. With Melvin Upton and Matt Kemp out of town, and Jon Jay to follow after the season, the Padres should have a whole new outfield in 2017. While Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, and Alex Dickerson seem the likeliest options from right to left, the Padres shouldn’t overlook Travis Jankowski and what he’s been able to do in limited playing time this season. With great defensive instincts, elite base running acumen, and a disciplined eye at the plate, Jankowski could be an integral part of the next great Padres team. He only needs to be given the chance to make good on that possibility.

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6 years ago

He’s a disruptor. He’s scrappy. He goes all out. He reminds me of Eric Owens, with a lot more talent.

6 years ago

I think what happens is this…

they’re gonna bring guys like Jankowski, Dickerson, Rondon, Schimpf, Dominguez, Cesar Vargas and a few others, to Spring Training…and if they’re not traded first, they’ll fight it out in camp.

as for your question…yea, I think ‘Freddie” is ready. He SEEMS like the leadoff we’ve been looking for, since Doc Roberts left, in 2006.

I say SEEMS, with caution, because we thought the same thing about Everth Cabrera and Cameron Maybin, Freddie Guzman and Josh Bartlett and Ramon Vazquez, etc.

but watching Travis play everyday, is just incredible, because he obviously heard the rumblings that say he couldnt hit the ball out of the infield…well, he shut that noise down the other night, getting on base 5 times, with two doubles and two hard hit singles and a walk.

the most enjoyable guy to watch on the team, hands down. And Id love to see him leading off, with Manny Margot, hitting behind him in the 2 hole, next season. Margot in CF…Jankowski in LF…Renfroe in RF…and in the end, Dickerson is traded in the offseason(defensively challenged) or they hold onto him for insurance/4th OFer.

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