Powerful Shaw has the makings of a complete hitter
Boston Red Sox corner-infield prospect Travis Shaw has had the advantage of being around a baseball family his entire life. The Washington Courthouse, Ohio, native's dad Jeff was a Major League pitcher for 12 seasons.
At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Travis is bigger than his dad.
The younger Shaw was a versatile high school athlete, having played basketball, football and golf in addition to baseball at Washington Courthouse High School. After hitting .544 as a junior, he returned for his senior season to hit an even better .560. Shaw won countless honors as a top student-athlete during his high school career.
The Red Sox selected Shaw out of high school in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing with Boston, he chose to attend Kent State University, where he had an outstanding career as a third baseman, earning awards and accolades in the Mid American Conference.
Following his junior season at Kent State, the Red Sox again selected Shaw in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He signed his professional contract and began his career at short season Lowell, then finished up the year at Class A Greenville, going to the plate a combined 250 times and hitting .265. All but 10 of Shaw's plate appearances were with Lowell.
Most of Shaw's time in parts of four Minor League seasons has been spent at Double-A Portland, where he has played the majority of his games at first base.
Shaw, who is ranked No. 19 on Boston's Top 20 Prospects list, hit 16 home runs for Portland last season, driving in 50 runs. He struck out 117 times in his 529 plate appearances on his way to hitting .221 for the year. Shaw also stroked 21 doubles and four triples among his 98 hits.
At the conclusion of last season, the Red Sox sent Shaw to the Arizona Fall League to play for the Surprise Saguaros. That's where I first scouted Shaw. He hit a very solid .301 with five home runs and 19 RBIs, ranking him among the top hitters in the league. Shaw made no errors at first base in 17 games.
Shaw has good power as a left-handed hitter. He has fairly good bat speed, and he reads and recognizes pitches well. There are times, however, when high-velocity fastballs cause Shaw some problems. Overall, his mechanics are sound at the plate, with very little extraneous movement in his setup and swing. Shaw uses a bit of leg lift as a trigger.
Shaw has the ability to use the entire field, even hitting the left-center-field gap at times. He is best when he doesn't try to hit everything to his pull side.
Although he is patient at the plate, Shaw will continue to swing and miss at a fair number of pitches. That comes with the territory of being a big, strong power hitter. So far this season -- playing once again at Double-A Portland -- he is showing better contact and fewer strikeouts, and he is punishing right-handed pitching.
Shaw has stolen a few bases in his career, too. For example, in the 2012 season, he swiped 12 bags while being caught only three times. Pitchers and catchers would do well to keep an eye on Shaw when he's on first base. He's much quicker than he may appear physically. Shaw isn't fast, per se, but he's quick with very sharp baseball instincts -- and he's smart.
Defensively, Shaw is much better than his size might indicate. While I wouldn't call him overly athletic, I would say he showed more agility and better footwork than I had initially anticipated. Defense will not be an issue. Shaw can play first base. Even though he has a very strong and accurate arm, I do not feel he profiles nearly as well as a third baseman.
Still a work in progress at age 24, Shaw has returned to Double-A this season and is doing well. He is hitting home runs, driving in runs and even stealing bases. Shaw is making good contact and striking out less. He continues to refine and develop his skills and prepare for his future.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.