The San Diego Padres are in the need of a quality center fielder. One who can perform defensively as well as in the batting lineup. Rookie Travis Jankowski has a chance to be the teams starting center fielder for years to come, but he is still very raw and has to develop in order for that prediction to become true.
Jankowski is a slap type hitter with little to no power. Power is not what he is about. He is a prototypical lead-off type hitter, all though he hasn’t had a chance to hit lead-off yet for the Padres. The team currently has hit him in the eighth and ninth hole in an effort to protect him at his young age and inexperience.
He will ultimately be given a shot at top of the order but you can be sure the team will wait until they believe he is ready. They are taking the correct approach with the youngster but sooner or later he is going to have to play a couple of days in a row and bat lead-off. The team needs to let him play on a regular basis and even get him some at bats against left-handed pitchers. The Padres need to be in evaluation mode for the future of this franchise.
Defensively Jankowski has shown terrific range and speed, but there are some concerns about his arm in center. He has an average arm currently, but he can develop accuracy and also can improve his arm strength to a certain extent. He is still only 24 years old, and has a bright future. His work ethic will determine if he takes his game to the next level.
It is curious that the Padres have let Melvin Upton Jr. play center field while both Jankowski and Upton Jr. are in the lineup. Upton is probably the superior defensive fielder at this point, and the Padres are surely “showcasing” Upton in hopes to move him this off-season. Melvin Upton Jr. has had a decent last few months. After hitting just .147 in June, Upton has hit .260 in July and .263 in August while flashing a solid glove in center.
Can Jankowski take a hold of the starting job and run with it? He has great on base skill. In his past few seasons in the Minor Leagues he has excelled at getting infield hits and bunt singles. Very effective against Minor League fielders, but those same type of skill hits will be tough against Major League caliber defenders. Jankowski will have to continue to work on his craft and not abandon who he is as a hitter.
Jankowski probably will never be a 10-15 home run guy. He can however be a high on-base machine that steals bags and wrecks havoc on the base paths. That skill is very rare, and the Padres should be wise and give him time to adapt. If he can perfect his craft with the bat and improve his arm strength then the Padres could have a great lead-off man.
There are going to be growing pains with this young center fielder. Padres fans should not expect too much from the rookie for the first few hundred at bats. If given an opportunity to play everyday, Jankowski should bloom by the middle of the 2016 season. Will the Padres give the young outfielder the chance to earn a job or will they lose patience with him? The 2016 season will be huge for the team and Jankowski will likely be on a very short leash if even given an opportunity at all. The growth of Travis Jankowski will be interesting to witness over the last few weeks of the season, lets see if this kid can grow even more as a player. The Padres could definitely use his youth and enthusiasm in the lineup. Jankowski came out of nowhere to have a monster year, sometimes it just all clicks for a ball player. It obviously has for Jankowski, and the Padres are benefiting for drafting this young man out of Stony Brook University.