It’s no secret who will be manning the hot corner for the Brewers this season. Travis Shaw will be looking to follow up his breakout season in 2017 and lead Milwaukee to a playoff berth.
Coming into last year, Shaw looked like a dart throw for the Brewers when they made the trade for him. The organization took a chance on a player coming off a down year in Boston who showed promise with his first cup of coffee in the majors. Never a highly touted prospect, Shaw showed potential in 2015 with the Red Sox. Yet he collapsed the next year and his stock tanked. Milwaukee bought low on the third baseman and found their franchise cornerstone at the position.
The question with Travis Shaw is can he make his breakout season in 2017 the norm. He finished the year as a top 10 third baseman in the league in terms of WAR and ended with a wRC+ of 119. He also posted a .273/.349/.513 slash line with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs along with providing solid defense. There’s no way of avoiding it, Travis Shaw had an exceptional season that may not be repeated. However, his underlying numbers may show otherwise.
The Brewer’s third baseman’s patience at the plate fueled his great offense. His walk rate rose almost two full percentage points, from 8.1 to 9.9 percent. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate fell back to his 2015 rate, dropping two percentage points from his down 2016 year. Additionally, his isolated power spiked to .240, explaining the near doubling of his home run total. Finally, his BABIP stayed right in line with his career average of .305.
Shaw is a tough player to predict. He has around two and a half years track record to pull from to see what he really is at the plate. Fans and analysts alike generally fall into two camps. Either you believe he wasn’t highly touted for a reason and his 2016 numbers are closer to his talent level, or you trust his peripherals and the growth he has experienced since entering the league. Regardless, if Shaw’s patience continues to grow like it has, the bandwagon will be growing more crowded by the second. Might as well hop on while there’s still leg room available.
There isn’t much to be said here with a potential all-star at the position. However, in case there is an injury we should take a look at the other guys available.
A career utility player, Hernan Perez would most likely slide in if Shaw goes down during the season. Perez is a fine option as essentially a fifth infielder. He can slide in and provide something around a .290 OBP along with 30-plus steal speed if given a full season. Along with decent defense and shocking power, the Brewers could be worse off for a backup third baseman.
In addition to Perez, Jonathan Villar is also an option at third if he isn’t manning second base. As seen in the write-up on Villar, he could be an extremely valuable player to this Milwaukee squad. However, if he loses the starting job at second and is relegated to backing up his fellow infielders, chances are he didn’t fix his offensive struggles from 2016.