Written by: John Stewart (@jonance)
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Pop pop it’s showtime…. showtime… Guess who’s back again? In this case, it’s Travis Demeritte’s career that’s back on track, and he finds himself with more sustainability than the catchy Bruno Mars song. Once a first round pick by the Texas Rangers, Demeritte has endured a PED suspension, massive underperformance, and two trades. Today, he’s overcome those issues and ascended to the big leagues after a deadline move from Atlanta to Detroit. Here’s how the Travis Demeritte Magic got to Motown.
Drafted out of his Atlanta high school in the first round by the Texas Rangers way back in 2013, Demeritte has seemingly been on the prospect radar forever. Scouts liked his quick hands and wrists, explosive line drive swing and barrel control, drawing comps to Brandon Phillips at the time he was selected.
Demeritte (rhymes with karat) managed some solid (albeit unspectacular) campaigns in the Rangers organization, showcasing good power but a flawed hit tool that caused his strikeouts to skyrocket. In 2015, his stock bottomed-out when he was slapped with an 80-game PED suspension. Upon his return, he was demoted to Short Season Spokane, where he put up middling numbers in an extremely brief sample, which led fans to question whether Demeritte fit into the Rangers’ long term plans at all.
But things started clicking for Demeritte beginning the next season, as he began to produce runs at a top-tier level. In 123 games between High Desert and Carolina in 2016, he slashed .266/.361/.554 with 28 home runs and 70 RBIs. The Atlanta Braves apparently saw something in Demeritte as they picked him up in a trade for Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez in July of that season.
Looking at Demeritte’s numbers in a three-season span between 2016-2018 give us an average of 125 games with a .238 batting average, a 117 wRC+ and 20 home runs. 2018 featured a move from the infield (namely second and third base) to the outfield, where he played 120 games at last season. The average was still lagging behind the counting stats offensively, but there was another adjustment on the horizon… along with a new baseball.
Demeritte started 2019 with the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers and got his first crack at the new juiced balls as well. But the balls weren’t the only thing that changed in the offseason. Demeritte went to work on his swing, cutting down on his leg kick and stride to allow his lightning quick hands to maximize their potential.
The alterations led to a 100-game breakout, with Demeritte slashing .286/.387/.558 with 20 home runs and a 138 wRC+. The batting average was the highest mark of his career, topping a previous high of .285 from Rookie Ball in 2013. The changes also seemed to help him make more contact, as he posted a 26.6 K% after long stretches of higher whiff rates throughout his minor league career. After appearing in the Triple-A All Star Game, the Detroit Tigers took notice of his improvements, and Demeritte was traded alongside Joey Wentz in the Shane Greene deadline deal. After the trade went official, Demeritte immediate packed his bags for Motown.
While the sample size is still extremely small, Demeritte, who is still just 24 years old despite his long and meandering minor league career, does not appear overmatched in MLB. In 57 plate appearances, the outfielder is slashing .265/.351/.429 with a home run and 3 stolen bases in 14 games. He is still striking out at a high clip (33.3%), but the Tigers will give their new outfielder a fairly long leash to see what they have in him. Stolen base output can be fickle and sporadic, but Demeritte is currently on pace to post his highest season-long swipe total since the 2016 season.
So far, he has mostly batted 6th or 7th in a lineup that won’t often produce many run-scoring opportunities. That being said, his hard hit rate of 40.0% and 90.5 mph average exit velocity are good indicators that he has the ability to do damage each time he steps into the box. It should also be noted that he’s posted sprint speed times that are well above average (and nearly elite, FWIW), so it’s feasible the Tigers can help Demeritte unlock some stolen base upside we didn’t know existed.
He isn’t likely to save your redraft fantasy team, but Demeritte is an intriguing target if he’s still available in AL-only leagues, offering a bit of speed and some pop as well. In shallower leagues, I would just monitor his progress and pick him up if you need OF help.
From a fantasy standpoint, the main emphasis on Demeritte should be from a dynasty league standpoint. If you’re out of contention or rebuilding, there’s really no reason the 24-year-old should be on your league’s waiver wire. Young talent with sneaky upside that’s already in the big leagues can often bridge gaps and even eventually allow your contention window to open a season earlier than you were anticipating. Demeritte fits this bill, and riding with him for two months does absolutely no harm on rosters that weren’t going to make your league’s playoffs anyways.
Finally, I wanted to talk a bit about baseball cards. Please stop reading if this doesn’t interest you as I want to leave you on a good note. I recently got back into the hobby and have been solely buying 1st Bowman Chrome autographed cards. While many of the more well-known prospects (even underperforming ones) have seen their prices jump up over $100 or even $1000 due to their respective hype trains, Demeritte has flown under the radar. His base autos can be had for less than $10 and refractors for just a bit more.
I see this as a low-risk buying opportunity for a prospect who has the opportunity and talent to put up some nice numbers and pay some dividends. I have already picked up some BGS graded color refractors (like the one shown here) and they really are gorgeous. Happy Hobbying!
Follow P365 staff writer John Stewart on Twitter! @jonance
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of John Stewart