Last year San Diego Padres outfielder Travis Jankowski was promoted to the majors and hit .211/.245/.344 in 96 plate appearances. He didn't have a guaranteed job for 2016 entering spring training, and while his .250/.353/.318 line (with five steals) over 44 at-bats in camp wasn't spectacular, the Padres brought him north.
So far he's seen action in five of San Diego's six games, used as a pinch-hitter and defensive sub. Can he get beyond that role? Let's take a look.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 190 DOB: June 15, 1991
2013: Grade C+; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C
Drafted in the supplemental first round in 2012 from Stony Brook University, Jankowski missed most of 2014 with a broken wrist. He came back healthy and effective in 2015, zipping through the high minors and finishing the season with the Padres. Jankowski is a line drive hitter with a good sense of the strike zone. He didn’t walk much in the majors but given his track record I think he can adjust with more time and boost his OBP significantly. I used to think he might develop additional pop and turn into a David DeJesus type, but that seems less likely now. His best tools are 70-grade speed and excellent defensive instincts. Overall this is a fourth outfielder profile, albeit a good example of the type. Grade C+.
The scouting reports haven't changed since pre-season: Jankowski can run, field, and makes contact, but shows no signs of hitting for power. He's better than the .211/.245/.344 line he ran up in his 2015 debut, but probably not "enough better" to force his way into a regular job, at least right now.
Projection systems results: Steamer has him at .259/.312/.345, ZiPS .242/.297/.314, PECOTA .253/.310/.345. None of that is exciting, although all have him capable of stealing 20-25 bases if given 500 at-bats even with weakish on-base skills. I think the projection systems are close to correct at present, with the slightly more optimistic Steamer and PECOTA takes being what we should expect.
Long-term there's a chance he can improve that. The systems aren't sanguine on his batting eye, but in-person looks show a pretty refined hitting approach and feel for the strike zone. His swing won't generate power without major changes but it doesn't have to. Even a tiny gain in physical strength as he gets into his mid/late 20s would give him additional gap pop, and if he maintains his contact/discipline approach I could see him hitting .280 someday.
Even if that never happens, Jankowski's defense and speed make him a viable fifth outfielder right now. The way the Padres are using him right now is a perfect way to deploy his present skill set.