Travis Shaw and the Myth of the 1b Prospect

Mike Napoli has resigned, but the search is still on for the anchor at 1b in Fenway. Could it be Travis Shaw? Or is it more likely to be a prospect with a different position designation currently?

It is good to be a Red Sox fan. We are anxiously braving winter in expectation of an unveiled banner. Xander Bogaerts is the consensus number 2 prospect in baseball. There are another 5 to 8 prospects among the best 100 or so in baseball. Pitching is here (De La Rosa/Workman) or is coming (Barnes/Owens/Ball). We have Dustin Pedroia locked up for the totality of his brilliant career. The Yankees are still trying to win VIA high rolling in Free Agency.

Good times!

Mike Napoli has helped create some great [shirtless moments] for Sox fans, but he is a stop gap at his age. Enjoy him, but think of the future as well. [Credit Sitting Still]

The major question remains for the Red Sox: what are they going to do at 1b? Mike Napoli is as fun a player as has plied his trade on the field at Fenway, but he is on the wrong side of 30 (though, terrifyingly, a few months younger than your author) and has the mysterious hip ailment/degeneration. He was the most important re-sign the Red Sox had to make this offseason because there was no one to replace him. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley came just in time to cushion the blow of losing Jacoby Ellsbury and [potentially] Stephen Drew.

But you know all this.

The real issue in front of us today is this: Who is Travis Shaw? Can he replace Napoli in due time? Why is there no such thing as a 1b prospect anymore?

No one is particularly excited about Travis Shaw. He will not appear on any Top 100 prospect lists this offseason, he will not even appear on any Red Sox Top 10 lists. But, then again, only one 1b prospect (Jonathon Singleton) in all of baseball showed up on Jason Parks and Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 list [released yesterday].

But it appears that the industry is moving toward evaluating based on position as much as talent because a SS in the minors can play 2b in the majors (and not the other way around). A 3b can play 1b in the majors (and not the other way around). An infielder can move to the outfield, but not the other away around.

As such, Travis Shaw, though rated the 42nd best Red Sox in the minors is not a waste of space – but he is limited. He may provide something in the majors over the next few years while covering an injury, but he is what he is – a low hit tool player with a good idea of the strike zone and limited defensively. That is not exciting, but neither is it worthless. He was, after all, assigned to the Arizona Fall League in 2013 and displayed himself nicely (.361/.452/.705). If the ability to hit for average and maintain the pop (40 home runs at all levels in the last two calendar years) he could be a guy.

More likely, however, if the prospect lists tell us anything it is that the industry is moving toward shifting players off more demanding positions. So, if Travis Shaw proves himself to be the 42nd best prospect we have, we are far more likely (and may be so anyway) to see Garin Cecchini or Rafael Devers (if he is able to utilize that bat speed to progress in a way reminiscent of Xander Bogaerts) as the next first baseman of the Boston Red Sox.

After all, Will Middlebrooks is better than you think he is, and he is blocking those other promising fellows.

Isn’t minor league depth a fun problem to have? Where do you see the next first baseman of the Red Sox coming from?

Categories: Boston Red Sox

Thinks Pedro deserved the MVP and that Justin Verlander did not, that Dwight Evans was better than Jim Rice, that Marty Barrett was a worthy choice as favorite Red Sox player when I was a child, that J.D. Drew was very good for the Olde Towne Team, that Fenway Sports group owning Liverpool is not a proper reason to support that loathsome soccer club, that Peter Gammons needs a key lock on his cell phone, still thinks that Nomar Garciaparra is better than Derek Jeter, and that, finally, there is no such thing as being completely bias-free. When not writing about or watching the Red Sox, I moonlight as a father, a husband, a pastor, a doctoral candidate, an infielder and #2 hitter on the church softball team, soccer fan, Disney pass holder, snark manufacturer, and pizza connoisseur. Free time free since 2001.

10 Responses to “Travis Shaw and the Myth of the 1b Prospect” Subscribe

  1. Josh Cookson January 28, 2014 at 1:34 PM #

    I think it will wind up being Cecchini, they will take the high OBP and live with the low power, since the shorstop will be hitting 30 bombs a year.

  2. RichBenjamin January 29, 2014 at 9:36 AM #

    I think it SHOULD be Swihart, because I don’t want to waste Vazquez’ defense at catcher, and that’s the only way I see both of them staying on this team.

  3. Timothy Brooks January 29, 2014 at 3:04 PM #

    I agree that it will be Cecchini…but the Swihart idea is interesting. However, I think I see Vazquez ending up as a Jose Molina/David Ross/Henry Blanco type. I hope for more, but I am not optimistic that he will hit enough to warrant #1 Cacther status. As such, I think there may be a Swihart/Vazquez future with them splitting time 65/35 or so.

  4. Timothy Brooks January 29, 2014 at 3:05 PM #

    I do notice, so far, that no one thinks Travis Shaw will put it together…

  5. RichBenjamin January 29, 2014 at 3:26 PM #

    Timothy Brooks If Vazquez ends up as a Molina etc. type, that does simplify matters.  However, I’m rooting for more, and will continue my optimism as long as possible.

  6. RichBenjamin January 29, 2014 at 5:09 PM #

    Timothy Brooks Anything Shaw brings to the table is simply gravy in my mind.  I don’t think many people ARE going to get excited about an organization’s #42 ranked prospect.  I wouldn’t count the guy out, because stranger things have happened (Dan Nava).  I’m just not counting on it.

  7. Gerry January 30, 2014 at 3:52 AM #

    Yes, but only if he plays SS. Drew will not sign as insurance for XB and WMB as, on a 2-3 year deal he REPLACES both of them XB to 3B and WMB’s 30HR gone. As this also blocks Cecchini at 3B, Marrero and Betts at SS, then Garin is the most likely of those 3 to succeed Nap, other than Shaw. At that time we will Really, Really miss WMB’s 30HR power.

  8. Kahlil February 9, 2014 at 7:04 PM #

    In the system, Nava, Lava, Carp and WMB/ Ceccini all have potential. I am going with a name yet to be tied to the position: Deven Marrero.
    Marrero has plus bat speed, what is described as ‘fast twitch reactions,’ and a quick first step. He is scouted to stick up the middle, but he might be blocked everywhere else in the infield. He might not have the power tied to 1B…
    Outside of the system, CJ Cron (LAA), Dan Vogelsong (CHC), Miles Head (OAK), and Sho Nakata (JAP) are Minor League/ Nippon League players that would be interesting to obtain via trade.
    Two final notes:
    1. Matt Garrioch at just posted his top 300 prospects,,
    the Sox will be picking at 28, 36, and 37 and could draft one, or both, of the top two 1B available. Kyle Schwarber or JD Davis.
    2. Grady Sizemore + knee and back issues = 1B???

  9. Kahlil February 9, 2014 at 7:06 PM #

    Also, Swihart is more suited for 2b than 1b if Vazquez rises to the top of the C depth chart.


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