Atlanta Braves Scouting Report on IF Travis Demeritte
After an impressive Arizona Fall League, Atlanta Braves infield prospect Travis Demeritte has eyes on a big 2017
The Atlanta Braves acquired the athletic Demeritte in a mid-season trade with the Texas Rangers in 2016.
Demeritte was drafted by the Texas Rangers out of high school in Georgia in the first round of the 2013 draft. He spent his first season with the Rangers’ Arizona Rookie League team, hitting .285/.411/.444 with 4 home runs and 5 stolen bases, posting a 16.57% walk rate and a 28% strikeout rate.
Demeritte spent the entire 2014 season in low-A in the South Atlantic League with Texas’ Hickory affiliate. He hit .211/.310/.450 with 25 home runs and 6 stolen bases. He also posted a 10.73% walk rate and 36.7% strikeout rate.
Demeritte opened his 2015 season with Hickory again, hoping to improve upon his contact skills, but in June of 2015, Demeritte was suspended for use of a performance-enhancing substance. To his credit, Demeritte accepted all responsibility for his actions, returning to finish the season in the New York-Penn League before spending time in the Australian Baseball League that winter.
In the regular season, combined between low-A and the NYPL, Demeritte hit .232/.332/.384 with 5 home runs and 10 stolen bases. He also posted a 12.27% walk rate and a 36.36% strikeout rate. In the Australian Baseball League, Demeritte hit .216/.320/.401 over 47 games and 194 plate appearances, posting 5 home runs, 2 stolen bases, an 11.86% walk rate, and a 25.26% strikeout rate.
Demeritte opened his 2016 with High Desert in the California League, a notorious hitter’s league, and High Desert is one of the most hitter-friendly parks. It’s not surprising that he was hitting .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs, 13 steals, a 10.85% walk rate, and a 33.07% strikeout rate when the Braves acquired him.
The Braves sent him to high-A Carolina, where he hit .250/.384/.476 over the final 35 games of the season with 3 home runs, 4 stolen bases, a 17.11% walk rate, and a 32.89% strikeout rate.
Combined on the season, he hit .266/.361/.554 over 530 plate appearances, hitting a combined 28 home runs, 17 stolen bases, 29 doubles, and 9 triples. He also posted a 12.64% walk rate and a 33.02% strikeout rate.
Demeritte was one of the players that the Braves sent to the Arizona Fall League along with some of the top prospects in all the game. He hit .261/.333/.522 in 22 games and 92 at bats with 4 home runs and 3 stolen bases, posting an 11/25 BB/K ratio.
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Demeritte is listed at 6′ and 180 pounds. He is built lean, but there is a solid strength to his build as well.
Contact (45) – Demeritte has what is oft-referred to as a “long” swing, but he does have a bit of a difference to his swing than most.
Demeritte holds his bat nearly laying down the length of his back as the ball is first delivered, then brings the bat up, his hands back, then the bat head around into the zone. That extremely long lead into the zone is really the big issue in Demeritte’s swing.
From there, Demeritte has exceptional bat speed with tremendously fast hands. I would even go as far as to say that his batting average, strikeout rate, and contact grade would all improve dramatically with the bat having even half the amount of pre-zone movement as he currently experiences.
Power (55) – The remarkable bat speed that Demeritte generates is where you see the big time power that he delivers. While he does have a long lead into his swing, he has a fairly line drive-oriented path through the zone once the bat enters it.
This is evident in the amount of doubles and triples that Demeritte tallied in both the Carolina League and AFL this year. While I’m not sure that he’ll be a 20+ home run hitter in the major leagues without some adjustment in his swing load.
However, even without a major swing adjustment, Demeritte gets tremendous gap power, and he could be a guy who drives 30+ doubles, 5+ triples, and double-digit home runs each year as his expected output, but he definitely has upside beyond that.
Eye (50) – This is where I like to go against the traditional scouting model of combining contact and eye into an all-inclusive “hit” tool.
Demeritte is a perfect example. He could certainly be a 55 right now, but I do ding the strikeout rate, though his strikeouts in what I see are as much due to his swing as due to bad pitch recognition or zone recognition.
In fact, Demeritte has consistently shown excellent zone recognition throughout his minor league career thus far, walking at a 12.44% rate, which is one of the best rates that any player in the Braves minor league system currently carries.
Unlike many guys who post big walk and strikeout rates, Demeritte’s high numbers are not due to being passive at the plate, either. He has a solid idea of the zone and lays off pitches outside of the zone well, but when he attacks a pitch, often his long swing does lead to a lot of swing and miss.
Speed (55) – Demeritte seems to get a lot of 50s on his speed, but I struggled not to put a 60 here, even though I don’t think he’s a pure quickness guy, which is why I went 55.
He takes one or two steps to get there, but once he’s at full speed, he is very good. I love watching his base running as he has a solid ability to cut bases and accelerate between bases to add in extra bases once he’s on base. He’s also shown excellent instincts while stealing bases, stealing at nearly an 80% rate in his career, even without elite quickness, which is quite impressive.
Defense (65) – Demeritte’s signature thus far with the Braves has been his elite defense at second base. While he added a different element to the top of the Carolina offense after he arrived, his presence in the infield defense truly was notable just watching the games.
He has exceptional range and hands that he showed at second base. While I’ve not honestly done a ton of review of Demeritte at short, from what I have heard and read on him, those were not highly evident things when he was on the other side of the keystone sack.
I really was impressed in watching Demeritte in the field in the AFL and how well he transitioned to taking balls at third base. He showed very solid instincts there and could have a future at that position as well.
Arm (60) – Demeritte has an arm that would probably rank as elite at second base as most guys at the position have average arms at best. His plus arm was aided by very solid accuracy from the second base position as well.
In his AFL time, Demeritte did have a chance to show off his arm a bit more, and he definitely could handle the hot corner or an outfield spot with his arm strength very comfortably.
MLB Player Comp
As I watched more of Demeritte, including his Arizona Fall League play, and did some more video research, I think Braves fans will remember the guy who I think really matches well with Demeritte’s overall skillset.
Ron Gant started out with the Braves in the infield with extreme athleticism, but found a home in the outfield and became an excellent, even elite, defensive outfielder.
After his accident before the 1994 season, Gant did lose quite a bit of athleticism, but one of the things you saw with Gant is that in spite of extreme athleticism was that his long swing led to him actually having a fairly low BABIP for a guy with the speed that Gant had. His career BABIP number was .279.
One of the notable things for Demeritte is that he is still posting extremely high BABIP numbers in the minor leagues due to his impressive athleticism. That will be something to track with him as he moves up the system.
The Braves suddenly have a wealth at second base where they started 2016 with no real “stud” at the position. Ozzie Albies has shown himself to be near-ready for the majors as soon as his elbow is healthy, and now Demeritte is receiving some of the highest numbers I’ve ever seen given to a player playing second base for defensive ratings (Fangraphs writer Eric Longenhagen has stated that Demeritte could receive the first 70 grade he’s ever given a 2B on defense).
Whether Demeritte remains at second or shifts elsewhere as he moves up the system will be very interesting indeed. However, his defense will likely not be in question. It will be his ability to control his strikeouts as he advances that determines Demeritte’s future.