MadFriars’ 2015 Player of the Year: Travis Jankowski

Travis Jankowski runs the bases for the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Jorge Salgado

Travis Jankowski rebounded from a near career ending injury in 2014 to not only put his career back on track, but performed well enough to make his big league debut in late August and in the process was the MadFriars’ Player of the Year for 2015.

"No doubt, he would be the best defensive centerfielder in San Diego right now," said Mike Saeger, the Missions’ play-by-play broadcaster in late June before he was promoted to Triple-A El Paso. "I do think he needs some more reps against advanced pitching and would like to see him bunt a little more, but he controls the strike zone pretty well."

"With his speed and feel for the game he could wreak havoc in San Diego."

The left-handed hitting Jankowski was in San Antonio until late July where he hit .316/.395/.401 with 23 stolen bases in 31 attempts. In an interview with Baseball America, he attributed his success to learning how to use his top hand better to pull the ball and a refined two-strike approach.

"I’ve really been using the whole field more than in the past along with having a better two-strike approach," Jankowski said for why he’s cut down on whiffs. "I know that even on a chopper to the left side, I still have a chance."

After leaving San Antonio he stood out in the Pan American Games where Jankowski, 24, was one of the stars of the U.S. team that just lost to the Canadian team in the finals before reporting back to the Missions for one game in July before going onto El Paso.

As with Rymer Liriano last year, Jankowski absolutely tore up the Pacific Coast League in 24 games hitting .392/.464/.495 with nine stolen bases and eight extra-base hits earning a promotion to San Diego when the Padres traded Will Venable to the Texas Rangers.

For 2016 he is projected to share the center field duties with Melvin Upton, Jr. where the former star from Stony Brook University in Long Island will have a chance to answer the Padres’ long standing search for a leadoff hitter and quality defensive centerfielder.

"I think a lot of people really failed to grasp just how serious that injury was," said Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Minor League Development, in an interview with MadFriars. I had a little familiarity with Travis from my time in Oakland but to watch him play this year was impressive. With him what always stands out first is the defense that he brings to center, he can really play out there."

"This year he got a little stronger and has started to drive the ball more. As you said, he got to the major leagues this year and put himself in a great position for the future. Remember, he started the season with his main goal was just to stay healthy – so he kind of surpassed that."