Even though the baseball season is on hold, that hasn’t stopped us from looking at potential 2020 fantasy sleepers. Today we look at Tigers OF Travis Demeritte, a former first-round pick who had a strong 2019 season in AAA and could be poised to get a long look in the Majors this season. But should you target him in fantasy this year?
Travis Demeritte in 2019
A first-round pick by the Rangers in the 2013 MLB Draft, Travis Demeritte has always had premium power and bat speed but controlling it has never been easy. Prior to 2019, the New York native had four seasons in the Minors in which he hit at least 15 home runs, with his career-high coming in 2016 with 28. However, Demeritte has had problems in the past with the strikeout and being unable to make consistent contact.
Last season with Gwinnett (AAA), Demeritte had a strong campaign with the Stripers, recording a .287/.387/.558 slash line and drove in 73 runs while smashing 20 home runs for the Braves AAA affiliate. Among qualified hitters in the International League, Demeritte finished fifth in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging and OPS. While he was still striking out a bunch (106 K over 96 games in AAA last season), it appeared that the former first-rounder was making some progress.
At the Trade Deadline in July, Demeritte, along with Joey Wentz, were traded to the Tigers in exchange for RHP Shane Greene. The trade gave the 24-year old his first taste of the Majors, as Demeritte was called up by the Tigers after the trade. Demeritte played 48 games with Detroit over the last two months of 2019 and produced pretty mixed results.
Demeritte batted just .227 over 48 games in the Majors last season, and the 24-year old hit just three home runs and drove in 10 runs over that time span. Those numbers don’t look good, and what also didn’t look good was the number of times Demeritte struck out in the Majors last year. Demeritte struck out 63 times during his time with Detroit. Between August 1 and the regular season, only 10 players struck out more than the Tigers outfielder. In addition, Demeritte’s 33.9% K% rate also was in the bottom 20 during that timespan.
While one may contribute those strikeouts problems to overly chasing at pitches out of the zone, that wasn’t really the case. Demeritte’s Chase% rate in 2019 was at about league average. Rather, it simply seemed to be a matter of timing, especially when it came to the fastball. 40 of Demeritte’s 63 strikeouts were off the fastball, with twelve of those coming off of fastballs that were at least 95 MPH. Demeritte’s Whiff% rate of 35.2% (which was above MLB average), and 36.9% Whiff% rate on fastballs is also a pretty good indication of what the issue was with the young Tigers outfielder.
Still, there were some promising signs to come out of Demeritte’s time with the Tigers last season. The 24-year old’s exit velocity and Hard Hit% rates were above league average, and his .333 BABIP was 37th (out of 143 qualified hitters) in the Majors over the final two months of last season. In fact, Demeritte’s BABIP during the span was higher than the likes of Aaron Judge, Anthony Rendon, and George Springer. While all of that sounds well and good, the key there is that Demeritte’s numbers were fine when he made contact. However, he didn’t do that all that often with the Tigers.
What to Expect From Demeritte in 2020
Despite Demeritte’s status as an up-and-coming ballplayer, it was going to be tough for the 24-year old to crack the Tigers’ Opening Day roster entering this spring. While that notion might seem odd given the state of the Tigers’ roster, as well as the potential Demeritte possesses, Detroit did add Cameron Maybin to their roster this past offseason. Maybin, along with JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes, seemed to be the probable starting three outfielders for Detroit, with Christin Stewart getting time in there as well. But once Spring Training started, Demeritte was making it difficult for the Tigers to send him down to the Minors prior to the suspension of play.
Over nine games in Spring Training, Demeritte batted .313 and smacked four home runs during that time. In fact, he hit two of those off of new Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole. It’s a shame for Demeritte that play was suspended, as he was making a compelling case for the Tigers to keep him with the big club.
With that said, the question remains: should you consider Demeritte as a sleeper in fantasy baseball this year? While he does have the potential to be a good power hitter in the Majors, the young outfielder still will probably need some time in the Minors. And even if he does get some time in the Majors this season, Demeritte will still need to consistently make contact in order to make fantasy owners feel more comfortable. My advice: keep an eye on him, but there are better options out there.
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