Let’s peer into the future for a moment. The time: roughly one year from now. I’m hosting my weekly Tuesday chat, and a reader wants to know: who is the most underrated player in baseball? It’s a common question. It’s a question without an answer, but an answer everyone wants to know. Ben Zobrist’s time with the belt has come and gone. It’s no longer Jose Quintana — not after winning last year’s Cy Young Award. Another one of my go-to answers for this question is Mike Trout, and I might still believe that, but I know it’s not what the reader’s looking for. No, they want the star-not-perceived-as-a-star. The guy flying under the radar as one of baseball’s best at his position without the national recognition. They want what Zobrist was in his heyday. What they want is Devon Travis.
But they’re not going to get Travis as the answer to that question a year from now, because what I’m here to do now, in the present, is exactly what they don’t want you to do in any movie that involves time travel, like that one with Ashton Kutcher or any one of the dozen Final Destination films. I’m here to do something in the present that changes the future. I’m here to prevent Devon Travis from becoming the most underrated player in baseball, because he deserves to be recognized as one of the best second baseman in baseball already.
Travis checks all the boxes of a player doomed to be underrated. The first key of being overlooked as a major leaguer is to be overlooked as a minor leaguer. Check. Travis lasted until the 13th round of the 2012 draft, selected as the 424th pick between Phildrick Llewellyn and Alan Sharkey largely because teams were wary of his 5-foot-9 stature. By 2014, he’d worked his way up to cracking Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list, but even then came in at just 84th, and shortly thereafter was traded from Detroit to Toronto for Anthony Gose, whose own stock was rapidly plummeting.