The efforts of Travis Shaw over his first two seasons established him as the top first base prospect in the Red Sox system, a position that had yielded much disappointment from prior top hopefuls over the past few years.
After a derailing 2013 campaign in Double-A Portland it looked as if Shaw might be headed down the path of his predecessors, until a trip to the Arizona Fall League allowed him to regain his stroke, and more importantly his confidence.
“The down time I had before I went to Arizona was huge for me,” said Shaw, a 9th round selection of the Red Sox in 2011. “I wanted to get away from the season I had in Portland as much as I could. I was pretty determined when I went out to Arizona to prove myself, to try to prove that last season in Portland was a little bit of a fluke.”
Shaw endured slumps and struggled to regain a plate prowess that produced a .287/.397/.517 line with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2012.
“That was the first time I’ve ever failed for an extended period of time,” said Shaw, who drove in only 50 runs in 2013. “It taught me a lot about myself and how to handle it and get through those slumps.”
Although his defense at first base remained solid - supported by a .992 fielding percentage – one bad at-bat gave way to the next as he became more and more aggressive in attempts to snap the cold streaks.
Yet the organization did not lose faith in Shaw, who hit 16 home runs on the year, including a bullpen shot at the home of the big club during the Futures at Fenway game in July.
“There were definitely some positives [in Portland] that ended up shining through in his performance in the fall league,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “He made a few smaller adjustments that turned that perception of his performance around quite a bit.”
In his first game with the Surprise Saguaros, Shaw got right down to business, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, putting him right back on track at the plate.
Shaw batted .361 for the Saguaros, hitting five home runs and six doubles to go with 19 RBIs and 18 runs in just 17 games, earning a league player of the week nod in the process.
“In Arizona I tried to get back to what my strengths were, which is hitting the ball up the middle and go the other way,” said Shaw. “I was determined to show myself that I am legit and that the season in Salem was not a fluke. Out there [in Arizona] I felt back to normal and it was a good six weeks for me.”
“The fall league is a great medium for guys to go and challenge themselves at levels they either haven’t played against or talented players from other organizations,” said Crockett. “The way that Travis performed there, the adjustments he was able to take from what he learned during the season…certainly there were some struggles, but it was by no means a failure of a season.”
Shaw’s achievements in Arizona helped him become one of only ten Red Sox prospects to receive an exclusive invitation to their Rookie Development Program in January, held for players the organization feels is within 12-18 months of reaching the big leagues.
The Sox backed that decision by issuing Shaw one of eight non-roster invites to big league Spring Training.
“It shows that the organization still has a lot of faith in me and backs me,” said Shaw. “It was definitely a confidence booster knowing that they really haven’t given up on me and that my opportunity is still there and that I can make an impact on the next level in the next year or two.”
With his 2013 season in the rearview, Shaw has wisely picked it apart for its’ educational value, finding that there were some positives that he can use moving forward.
“It was definitely a big learning experience and I think looking back on it now I’m kind of glad that I went through it,” said Shaw. “I wasn’t at the time, but looking back on it now there are a lot of learning experiences that I can take from that season if something like that arises again. Hopefully, next year, if I slip into a slump again I’ll be a little bit more prepared on how to get out of it quicker.”
The author is solely responsible for the content.