Where have all the elite leadoff men gone? I’m talking about your high-average/low-strikeout ability to get on base in any way and steal a bunch of bases leadoff men. Guys like Rafael Furcal, Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre and even Johnny Damon. Those guys are absent from today’s post-steroid game. Jose Reyes was that guy, but looks like a shell of himself this season as the injuries are starting to take their toll on his body. Ichiro is getting old, and his days seem gone, as well. Derek Jeter is enjoying some kind of fountain of youth this season, but with his 38th birthday approaching, how long will it last? He isn’t stealing many bases these days, anyways.
Dee Gordon? Yeah, he can fly, but he just can’t hit. His .250 OBP is nothing to get excited about either.
Consider Stony Brook’s Travis Jankowski — he’s a throwback. The 6’-3”, left-handed hitting outfielder offers something no one else can in this year’s draft — a true leadoff hitter.
Considered one of the best pure hitters in the draft, Jankowski also has elite speed and a great approach at the plate. As a sophomore in 2011, he hit .355 over 53 games with 38 RBI, 30 stolen bases and a .419 OBP. He also played a flawless center field — he didn’t commit an error all season. His speed allows him to get to any ball hit to him, from right center to left center field.
He then was named MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod League where he hit .327 with seven triples, 22 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a .444 OBP over 47 games playing for the Bourne Braves.
Bourne’s GM Mike Carrier had this to say about him:
“Not only is he a great baseball player, but a good person, student, citizen and overall nice person. Sometimes you don’t see nice people and ballplayers in the same combination.”
He came into this season ranked 24 on Baseball America’s pre-season top-100 draft prospects list. He has done nothing but improve on that number as he has been one of the best players in the country, regardless of class.
Over 44 games, he is hitting .390 with 49 runs, 13 doubles, nine triples, three home runs, 29 RBI and is 29-for-33 in stolen base attempts. He has only struck out 14 times over 164 at-bats, has been hit by a pitch eight times and sports a slash line of .471/.634/1.105. He also continues to be one of the best defensive outfielders, as well, committing just one error all season.
He has been impressing scouts all season, and over his current 11-game hitting streak, has displayed every tool in his bag. He is 23-for-40 (.575) with 18 runs, four doubles, five triples, two home runs, 10 RBI and is a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts. He has been hit by a pitch four times, drawn six walks and has only struck out once.
His 25 extra-base hits show the kind of gap power he has, as well as the speed to turn singles into doubles, and doubles into triples. His frame suggests more power could come, but that isn’t his game right now.
With almost every team in baseball lacking a spark plug at the top of their order, Jankowski is possibly the most unique player in this draft and should be at the top every team’s wish list come June 4.