When the Blue Jays traded Anthony Gose to the Tigers a few days ago, fans of the team started scouring the web for scouting reports of the second baseman coming back the other way. His name as we know is Devon Travis and he has a lot of people excited about the possibility of a solid player at the second base position with the Blue Jays for the first time since 2011. The reports on Travis aren't earth shattering, but they certainly provide a bit of optimism that he can reach the major league level fairly quickly and become the best option that the Blue Jays have.
His instincts and gritty makeup get the most out of his tools--which aren't lacking. ...He's not flashy but gets the job done. At worst, the Southeastern Conference player of the year will be an all-around second baseman. Offensively, he has a beautiful swing, above-average speed and control of the strike zone. He doesn't have plus home-run power, but he can hit the occasional longball and line balls into the gaps.
Wait a second here. That report sounds like what we've already heard about Travis and he did play at Florida State, but aren't the Seminoles in the ACC and not the SEC? As it turns out, this was actually how former Blue Jays fan favourite and second baseman Aaron Hill was described by John Sickels in early 2005 before the Californian started his year at Triple-A. The similarities between Devon Travis and Aaron Hill are certainly present and should provide even more hope that the next solid Blue Jays second baseman since Hill will actually be a player who fits in the same mould. Just to show how closely related the thoughts are about the two second basemen, here's what Rob Rogacki of Bless You Boys had to say about Travis on another story up on the site today:
He's a bat-first prospect with a decent hit tool and some gap-to-gap pop. His plate discipline is pretty good and most reports I've seen are complimentary towards his ability to wait for his pitch.
Sometimes scouting reports are where the similarities between players end, but that's not the case for Travis and Hill. Both are relatively small in stature, with Travis measuring in at 5'9" and Hill a slightly taller 5'11", while both players are around 200 pounds. The right-handed hitting and throwing second basemen went to college as mentioned earlier and after being drafted (Hill in the 1st round and Travis in the 13th) tore up lesser competition in the lower minor leagues. The stat lines tell an eerily similar story as well, which provides the opportunity to play the always fun game of guess who is player A and player B:
If you have an extremely good memory of the Blue Jays minor leagues, then you'll remember that Hill made it all the way to high-A Dunedin the year he was drafted, which makes him player B. As you can see, both players produced massive OBP numbers in the minors and coupled that with low strikeout rates and some solid gap power. It's not listed above, but both players hovered around 10 home runs per year as well, showing that they had enough power to clear the wall on the rare occasion.
Coming out of college the defence of both players was considered average at best and neither player was strong enough on the fielding side of the ball to be able to play at shortstop, although that's initially where Hill played at LSU. Travis won't be Ryan Goins out in the field, but he sounds competent defensively which is what we also came to expect of Hill in his heyday with Toronto.
Now obviously there is going to be a flip side to this argument and it starts with the fact that Devon Travis is certainly not Aaron Hill. In fact when asked by a certain someone if he saw any similarities between the two players, Keith Law didn't really see it...at all:
@Vikings182 None.— keithlaw (@keithlaw) November 14, 2014
That's because Aaron Hill was (and is) more talented in terms of tools than Travis. The new Blue Jay has well-documented holes in his swing that haven't been exposed in the lower minor leagues as Law points out:
He has leaky hips and starts his swing from a dead stop with his hands loaded low, making up for it a bit with strength, something that won't work as well against major league pitching.
It's also a given that Hill was considered the better player coming out of college due to the LSU Tiger being drafted 13th overall, while Travis didn't get taken off the board until the 13th round by the Tigers. There's a clear difference in tools, which means we may just have to accept that while at the moment it looks like the Blue Jays acquired Aaron Hill's twin they may have just acquired his mould with a few noticeable cracks in it. That's got to be better than what 34-year-old Maicer Iztruis coming off surgery brings to the table.
I'd like to thank jmarples for the inspiration to this post as he originally saw the similarities between the two players when the trade was made. Unfortunately, due to my extreme amount of love for Aaron Hill I never accepted the fact that any Blue Jay player would ever compare to him in the slightest.