Mets Prospect Highlight: Travis Taijeron | Astromets Mind

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mets Prospect Highlight: Travis Taijeron

Taijeron a breakout 2011 for the CPP Broncos

The Mets 18th round pick from the 2011 draft is off to a scorching start for the Las Vegas 51s, should we expect to see him in Queens anytime soon?

            If it seems like Travis Taijeron has smoked everything that he has hit so far, it’s only because he has, and it’s put him at the top of a lot of PCL leaderboards (rankings include qualified batters only, from fangraphs): 9th in AVG (.352), 7th in OBP (.419), 11th in ISO (.315), 5th in wRC+ (188), t-6th in HR (5), t-4th in K% (33.9), and 3rd in BABIP (.483). As you can see with those last two stats, a high percentage of his plate appearances have ended without Taijeron making contact (45.2% have ended in a K, BB, or HBP), but when he has, it’s been hard contact, which is the driving force behind his high BABIP. Let’s take a quick look at how he got here, and then compare it to his hot start in 2015.
            When the Mets took Taijeron with their 19th pick in the 2011 draft, he was coming off a season for DII Cal Poly Pomona during which he beasted to a 1.278 OPS thanks to 16 bombs. He was considered to have good raw power, but his big, sweeping swing caused concerns about making contact in the upper minors. Taijeron went to Brooklyn as a 22-year old, where he led the league with a .258 ISO, and was 3rd with 9 homeruns, but still struck out 28.4% of the time. He drew some attention in Mets prospect circles after that strong start to his pro career, but not much. He had spent most of the season in CF, where he played in college, but people hadn’t expected him to stick there out of college, and he didn’t exactly change their opinion.
Taijeron would start 2012 with Savannah, and he mashed for a .291/.401/.548 slash line over the first half, which earned him a promotion to St. Lucie. Taijeron hit his first road bump at St. Lucie in 2012, with his ISO dropping below .200 for the first time (it was .171, which is still nice), and his .253 BABIP suppressing his overall slash line. Overall, he combined to his 19 homeruns in 2012, while still playing a majority of his games in CF. Upon further inspection, you’ll notice that Taijeron only made 7 appearances in CF for St. Lucie, and he’s only made 7 appearances in CF anywhere since.
Taijeron’s 2013 was very similar to his 2012, except he dominated the Florida State League in the first half (.303/.396/.564 with 9 homeruns and a career low 24.3 K%), before hitting a bump in his first taste of AA during the second half (.245/.322/.504 with 14 homeruns and a 29.5 K%). Thanks to all of that power, his line was still good for a 125 wRC+ with Binghamton in 2013. Overall, he hit 23 homeruns in 2013, but there still wasn’t much excitement for his future. Taijeron improved his K: BB rates during his second stint in AA, but his HR/PA-rate dropped from 1 HR every 18.6 PA in 2013 with Binghamton, to 1 HR every 25.8 PA in 2014. But, after a cold start to the season, Taijeron finished the season as good as he had been anywhere, hitting .286/.396/.552 with 12 HR over his final 240 PA. He still struck out 27.1% of the time during that span, but his power (.266 ISO), patience (13.3 BB%), and a .365 BABIP helped overcome that. Looking at MLBfarm, you can see that Taijeron started hitting line drives at twice his first half rate during that span in 2014, which was likely the driving force behind his improvements.
Thanks to finishing 2014 on a high note, Taijeron had earned one of the promotions available to play in the 51s outfield out of Spring Training this year, where he has taken off. While his average has definitely been BABIP driven, and that BABIP is definitely unsustainably high, it’s not been a lucky .483 BABIP, he really has been crushing the ball. Of the 34 PA’s that have ended with Taijeron making contact, 16 of his batted balls have been classified as line drives, which is a 47% LD-rate. While I always add a disclaimer to minor league batted ball data (some of it may be misclassified, it’s not as reliable as major league data), his line drive rate is still elite with a few misclassified batted balls. Also, his impressive .315 ISO is not a mirage, as 5 of his 6 extra base hits have left the year – this is the PCL though, where homeruns flout of the park. Considering all of his power and strikeouts, you’d think that Taijeron was a pull hitter, and while he’s historically favored the pull side, he’s shown power to all fields throughout his career. It’s early, but he’s been going back up the middle and to the right side a lot more than ever, as only 29.5% of batted balls have been hit to LF, SS or 3B.

So, what do the Mets have here? A similar situation to what the Mets have with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, except from the right side, and less reliable in CF – he wouldn’t be the worst option on the team, but I haven’t seen anything from his play in RF to suggest a team should rely on him as an option out there. Right now, Taijeron strikes out too much to start in the majors, and the high K-rate doesn’t fit the profile of a typical bench player, so he should keep playing everyday in AAA. But, if he keeps up a high hard-hit rate, he could come up and potentially do what Kirk Nieuwenhuis did for the Mets in 2014 – 30% K-rate, but a 130 wRC+. He appears to have more power than Kirk, and the Mets still have 3 option years left on Travis, as he is not on the 40-man roster yet, so I expect we’ll see him on the bench over the next few years. The bad news is that Taijeron is already 26, and still needs more minor league seasoning, which is why I think the AAAA label will find him in time. If he does carve out a role in the majors, I think it is most likely to be as a lefty-mashing 4th outfielder, which can be valuable to a franchise – Scott Hairston was worth 2 fWAR in that role for the Mets during his two seasons in Queens. But realistically, he’s probably 4th on the Mets OF depth chart right now, behind Alex Castellanos, Darrell Ceciliani and Brandon Nimmo – Castellanos has been even hotter and plays nearly every position, and Ceciliani is Kirk’s backup right now – so I don’t think we’ll be seeing him in Queens anytime soon.

Check out 19 GIFs of Taijeron playing for Binghamton in 2014 here, and some 2015 GIFs below:

  • 0Blogger Comment
  • Facebook Comment
  • Disqus Comment

Leave your comment

Post a Comment

comments powered by Disqus
submit to reddit