The Freshmen Report: Duffy, Souza, Travis

Today at The Freshmen Report we take a look at two surprising big league contributors who have been more valuable to their respective clubs than expected. We also look at another first-year player on a playoff-caliber team who has had more warts than expected.

Matt Duffy, 3B, Giants: OK, Kris Bryant makes sense. Even Joc Pederson is no big shock… but Duffy with the third highest WAR among 2015 rookie hitters? That is something no one saw coming — not even the Giants, who initially installed Casey McGehee as their starting third baseman for the season. The 24-year-old third baseman is a solid reminder that good things can come from the later rounds of the draft — the 18th in this case. He’s not a slugger but Duffy has a chance to be a very good offensive third baseman in the new era (suppressed offence) of baseball. He’s shown a consistent ability to hit for average and, although his walk rate is down right now, he’s shown the ability to take more walks than the average player. Duffy is also a good base runner and stole 20 bases twice in his three-year minor league career. Toss in the fact that he’s a very good third baseman (with versatility) and you have someone that looks like a future stud for the Giants — even if he’s not the most flashy man at the hot corner.

Steven Souza Jr., OF, Rays: The offseason trade involving Souza raised some eyebrows, including my own. The club jettisoned promising young outfielder Wil Myers, who eventually ended up in San Diego in the three-team deal. He was actually hitting quite well before he got injured. The same cannot be said for Souza; in fact the only positive thing you can say about his season is that he’s not hurt. OK, that’s actually a little extreme. He has been a solid hitter for power, leading the club by a wide margin with 15 long balls. He’s also shown that he could develop into a 20-20 threat… assuming he can make enough contact to get on base at a respectable clip. His 35% strikeout rate is worrisome to say the least and doesn’t bode well for success in future years unless he makes significant adjustments. The club probably should have kept the two prospects it received from San Diego for Myers before flipping them to Washington for Souza. First round pick from 2014 and shortstop Trea Turner has split the year between Double-A and Triple-A and looks like he’ll be ready to be a starting infielder at the big league level in 2016. Starting pitcher Joe Ross, brother of Tyson Ross, has already reached the Majors and struck out 23 batters (with just two walks) in 20.1 innings.

Devon Travis, 2B, Blue Jays: Jose Bautista, and Josh Donaldson have been important cogs in the Jays’ 2015 lineup but Travis has been even more valuable than big ticket free agent Russell Martin and Edwin Encarnacion. A polarizing prospect, most analysts took “the under” on Travis’ ability to be an impact player at the big league level but he’s plugged a big hole for the Jays both offensively and defensively. In the field, he’s not flashy but he’s steady and reliable. At the plate, he’s scored 34 runs in 52 games. He’s shown unexpected pop (including seven homers) while hitting more than .300. His offensive numbers would be even better if you take out the stretch of time he tried to play through the injury. From April 28 to May 16 Travis hit just .153 (11-for-72) with five extra base hits during that stretch. Without that period of time, the rookie infielder would be hitting .395 (47-for-119) with 17 extra base hits. Not bad, eh?





Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Jackie T.
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Jackie T.

Would you rather have Travis or Odor in an OBL/SLG (no batting average) league? Primarily concerned with R/HR/RBI/OBP/SLG.