Coming into the 2016 season, Travis Shaw was the fan favorite for the starting third base job. The reason for this was because Pablo Sandoval came in overweight, showing a lack of commitment in the off-season. Since winning the third base job after a strong spring, Shaw has looked strong and Sandoval is now out for the season due to a shoulder injury, resulting in Shaw having the job sealed. Shaw has been very successful offensively at home and has done a better job defensively than expected at the hot corner.
Since debuting last season at the big league level, Shaw has been one of the best hitters at Fenway Park. Last season, he hit a cool .329 at home in 119 at bats. This season, the success has continued, hitting at a .387 clip in 62 at bats. Shaw has shown the ability to spray the ball to all fields and looks like a guy who is here to stay.
Shaw has been playing corner infield positions throughout his life, spending time at both first base and third base. However, he has spent less time at third base, only having five starts there last season. Coming into this season, Shaw’s defense was something to watch. With 4 errors on the season through 28 starts, the numbers do not help Shaw’s case. Sometimes numbers are deceiving and in this case they are. He has showed good range and good decision making thus far and as long as he continues hitting, the defense will be an afterthought. With the offense clicking and the better than expected defense, Shaw seems to have it all figured out right?
The answer to that is no. While Shaw has impressed me and made Sandoval an afterthought, he still has areas of his game to work on. On offense, Shaw has to show that he can hit on the road and hit lefties. He has crushed right-handers to a .376 clip but has only hit .143 against lefties. Both of these can be fixed and Shaw should be able to do just that. Last season he hit lefties better than righties. He had a .329 average against lefties last season compared to a .243 against righties. On defense, he just needs more starts and to continue adjusting to the other side of the diamond. He is not a defensive liability but he also is below average this season regarding third base defense, ranking 22nd in baseball in defensive fielding percentage.
Shaw has been a pleasant surprise and the potential is there to be even better, scary for opposing teams. If he figures out left-handers again and improves his play on the road, Shaw is on track to being an elite offensive third baseman in baseball.