David Ortiz was once an overlooked slugger with the Minnesota Twins who was released by that club and emerged as arguably the best DH in Major League history after signing with the Boston Red Sox. This is why Ortiz, who said he will retire after the 2016 season, appreciates another under-the-radar player – 25-year-old corner infielder Travis Shaw.
“It seems like he’s always been an underdog,” Ortiz said. “I know how it feels when you’re an underdog, you know what I’m saying? People barely pay attention to you. I was an underdog and here I am today. What happened to me can happen to anyone.”
The Red Sox farm system is regarded as one of the best in baseball, but Shaw was never ranked among the organization’s top prospects. A ninth round selection by the Sox out of Kent State University in 2011, Shaw climbed the farm system with stats that do not evoke attention (.261 average, .813 OPS, 69 home runs in five seasons and 2,211 plate appearances). Yet he mashed 13 home runs and 10 doubles over 226 at-bats for the Red Sox in 2015.
This spring, he reported to spring training “eight to nine pounds” lighter, and he has produced a .536 average (15-for-28, two home runs, 13 RBI and a 1.305 OPS while seeing time at first base, third base and left field. He has outplayed pricey veteran Pablo Sandoval, whose weight and conditioning remain an issue, and is owed $80 million plus over the next four seasons.
Shaw, who is a left-handed hitter, will likely see him at the corner infield spots, and occasionally spell the right-handed hitting Rusney Castillo in left field. Shaw and fellow left-handed hitter Brock Holt (who can play every infield and outfield position, but is best suited at third base and the corner outfield spots) provide Red Sox manager John Farrell with coveted versatility.