Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; World runner Jorge Bonifacio (bottom) is forced out by USA infielder Travis Demeritte during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Demeritte was drafted by the Rangers out of high school in Georgian in the first round of the 2013 draft, 30th overall. He was sent to the Rangers Arizona Rookie League squad, where he thrived, hitting .285/.411/.444 with 4 home runs and 5 stolen bases in 175 plate appearances with a 16.6% walk rate and a 28% strikeout rate.
The Rangers aggressively promoted the 19 year-old to full-season ball with low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League in 2014, and Demeritte had major flashes, though he showed some big holes in his swing as well and some definite raw-ness to his tools. He hit .211/.310/.450 with 25 home runs and 6 stolen bases with a 10.7% walk rate, but a very concerning 36.7% strikeout rate.
The Rangers sent Demeritte back to Hickory, and he was playing well before an injury shortened his season. He hit a combined .232/.332/.384 with 5 home runs and 10 stolen bases over 53 games with a 12.3% walk rate and a 36.4% strikeout rate. He struggled with time at short-season Spokane after his injury that skewed his strikeout rate some, but when he played in the Australian Winter League that winter, he put up similar numbers with .216/.320/.401 with 5 home runs and 2 stolen bases over 47 games with a 11.9% walk rate and a much better 25.3% strikeout rate.
Demeritte hoped to take some of the improvements he made in Australia in his approach to the Cal League and Texas’ high-A affiliate in High Desert, a notorious hitter’s park. His numbers were certainly skewed by his home park and the league, but a .272/.353/.583 line with 25 home runs and 13 stolen bases over 88 games is going to turn some heads no matter the hitting environment. He had a walk rate of 10.8% and a strikeout rate of 33.1%. The Braves sent him to high-A Carolina in the Carolina League after the trade, and he hit .250/.384/.476 for Carolina with 17 extra base hits and 4 stolen bases over 35 games. His walk rate was 17.1% and his strikeout rate was at 32.9%.
Demeritte is listed at 6′ and 180 pounds. He’s a right-handed thrower and swinger.
Demeritte, in spite of his slight build, generates a ton of power in his swing. His swing is long, which does make it difficult to adjust mid-swing to pitches, so barring a change in his swing mechanics, he’ll likely never be a guy who hits for a big average, and the strikeout numbers will always be fairly high.
That all said, I was very impressed by Demeritte’s pitch recognition. His walk rates are not simply a product of pitchers pitching around his prodigious power. He’s legitimately able to recognize spin well, and he tracks curves better than one would think when viewing his high strikeout rate. I do think that some slight adjustments to his swing could absolutely bring plenty of improvement in contact and reduction in strikeouts to really make that power a threat.
Demeritte may stand 6′ tall, but he is built with long legs and arms for his height, and those long legs serve him well in running the bases. He eats up a ton of space with each stride after he gets going, and he took first to third and took a double on a number of plays that many would have ended up with a single. That said, he does take a step or two to get to top speed, so his base stealing speed isn’t as good as his base running speed, but in the few chances I had to watch him go at the plate, he did have excellent reads on pitchers, but his success rate will probably be lower than you’d expect because of that step or two to get ready.
Watching Demeritte in the field is quite a treat. He is very smooth in his range, though his hands are not exactly the greatest, which predicated his move off of short. At second, however, his hands are above average for the position. He also has quite a bit of arm, which would allow him to move to third or even an outfield corner in the future if that was where the team found him as a best fit.
I found his footwork around the second base bag to be very good. I was pleasantly surprised at just how good his defense really was. I really could see him fitting in quickly at the upper level of the minors due to excellent defense.
When I watch Demeritte, I see a guy that I’m worried even to mention due to the high expectations that it could bring toward him. He has the build, smoothness in the field, and the long strides of Alfonso Soriano when he came up with the Yankees. Soriano came up as a very good second baseman, but he had gone through a lot of swing instruction in his time in Japan. However, he did have a lot of the same swing issues as a major leaguer that you see in Demeritte right now.
Demeritte is going to be playing in the Arizona Fall League this October, and many figured this would be for him to work at third base for a future transition. However, with the recent injury to Ozzie Albies, it may be prudent for the Braves to keep Demeritte at 2B and he could make some quick moves up the system with the right work on his swing. I’m very excited to see his future in the Braves system, regardless of where he plays. This is the type of athletic talent that simply doesn’t come along very often.