The Boston Red Sox boast one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, and that system has provided the big league team with plenty of talent. What could a big injury to one of their top prospects mean to the system and the minor leagues? Brandon Magee explains what the injury to Red Sox prospect Sam Travis means for the organization and the player.
On Sunday night, Sam Travis was removed from the Pawtucket Red Sox game against the Indianapolis Indians after suffering a leg injury. On Monday, he was ruled out for the season after being diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee. How does this injury impact the future for Travis and how will Boston and Pawtucket compensate during his absence?
Travis, one of the Red Sox top prospects, was injured during the third inning when a pick-off attempt on Max Moroff resulted in a run down. While attempting to apply a tag on Moroff, he ruptured his ACL. According to sources, Sam remained on the ground for a few minutes before trainers were able to help him to the clubhouse.
Travis was having a good debut season in AAA, batting .272/.332/.434 in 47 games, and was showing the potential of a power breakout. With six home runs this season, Sam was on pace to break double digits for the first time in his professional career. At the time of his injury, Travis was leading the International League with 29 RBI and he is currently in the top five in runs scored.
While ACL injuries are more common in basketball and football, baseball has had its share. It was only a few days ago that the Kansas City Royals placed Mike Moustakas on the disabled list after rupturing the ACL in his right knee in a collision with teammate Alex Gordon, who is out for a month with a broken hand. The Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber – a teammate of Travis at Indiana University – went down earlier in the year with an ACL injury after colliding with teammate Dexter Fowler.
Like most athletes, baseball players are typically able to resume normal activities the season after tearing an ACL. Victor Martinez missed all of 2012 with an ACL injury, returning in 2013 and having an MVP season – being voted 2nd in official balloting – in 2014 after batting .335/.409/.565 with 32 home runs for the Detroit Tigers at the age of 35. Chipper Jones underwent surgery in August of 2010, and came back the following season to bat .275/.344/.470 with 52 extra-base hits – his most in four seasons – over 126 games. Aaron Boone missed the 2004 season after rupturing his ACL playing basketball in the off-season. Boone would play five more seasons in the majors (2005-09) with four different teams, putting up a line of .249/.315/.380 in 430 games.
Tim Beckham suffered his ACL injury during the 2013 offseason at the age of 23, after making his Tampa Bay debut in September. Beckham played in 24 games in the minors late in the 2014 season, before making it back to Tampa last season where he batted .222/.274/.429 with 20 extra-base hits in 82 games. 26-year-old Scott Sizemore had established himself in the majors in 2011, batting .245/.342/.399 over 110 games for Detroit and Oakland. Unfortunately, he ruptured his ACL in spring training in 2012. He made it back to the majors in 2013, but re-injured the ACL in his second game of the season. He would make it back to the majors again the next season, with the New York Yankees, but was unable to establish a foothold, playing in only six games with the Bombers that season. He currently plays in AAA Syracuse with the Washington Nationals organization.
With Travis out for the season, the Pawtucket first base position becomes a veteran affair. 27-year-old Chris Marrero, a former first round draft pick, will likely become the primary first sacker for the PawSox. Marrero, who made his major-league debut in 2011 – putting up a .567 OPS over 31 games at the age of 22 – missed a large portion of 2012 after tearing his hamstring in winter ball. Although he made it back to the Nationals in 2013 for eight games, Marrero had not been able to re-establish the form which saw him hit .300/.375/.449 with AAA Syracuse in 2011.
Chris started last season with the independent Somerset Patriots before getting a shot in the Chicago White Sox organization. Despite putting up a .790 OPS in AAA Charlotte over 39 games, Marrero was released in August and later picked up by the Red Sox. This season, he has re-established his hitting prowess at McCoy, batting .279/.335/.529. Marrero, who hit his tenth home run and thirteenth double of the season on Tuesday, also becomes a likely call-up to Boston if injury were to beset Hanley Ramirez.
29-year-old Chris Dominguez will also see some time at first base for Pawtucket. The veteran corner man (infield and outfield) played in 14 games with the Cincinnati Reds last season. Dominguez, batting .270/.276/.378 in AAA, could be another possibility to be promoted, especially if the Red Sox choose to move Travis Shaw back across the diamond to first.
With Sam Travis missing the rest of 2016, the Red Sox plan for the 2017 season is likely to be impacted. While Travis was thought to be in the running to start the 2017 season as Boston’s starting first baseman – Hanley Ramirez would replace David Ortiz at DH – with only 47 AAA games under his belt and coming back from a knee injury, the Red Sox may choose to give Sam some more seasoning in Pawtucket. Now, the competition may be wide open, with Ramirez and Shaw seeing time at first base, Shaw and the returning Pablo Sandoval seeing time at third base, and everybody seeing time at designated hitter. Alternately, Boston could dip into the free agent pool in the offseason, signing one of the better hitters on the market to take over for Ortiz.
While an ACL injury is a terrible fate, history has shown that it tends to be a temporary one. With proper rehabilitation, players have been able to achieve similar success to their pre-injury career. Sam Travis’s prognosis is good. The only question is, when spring training is over next spring, will Travis be flying out with the Boston Red Sox or with the Pawtucket Red Sox?
Brandon Magee is our minor league expert; he has written about minor league travel, ranking prospects, a first round draft pick, and the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.