For the Texas Rangers, the thought of losing right fielder Adolis García for any period of time is not an easy one to take, but perhaps Travis Jankowski can fill in much easier than it seems. While he doesn’t offer the power that García does, Jankowski does bring some other favorable elements to the table that the Rangers could capitalize from.
What Jankowski lacks in power, he makes up for with gobs of speed. Would you believe that he stole 30 bases with the San Diego Padres in 2016? Two years later, he stole another 24. Keep in mind, too that these seasons took place before what some call the “Renaissance of the stolen base.” That’s right. It was before MLB decided to widen the bases by three square inches and limit pickoff attempts.
But sure, stolen base numbers don’t always tell the full story. Steals depend on the hitter usually stopping at first or second, and also having an open base in front of them to steal. For quicker baserunners, that’s not always the case because they can stretch routine singles into doubles or doubles in the gap into triples. This is where Jankowski excels, which makes sense when we look at his actual speed numbers.
For the 2023 regular season, Jankowski measured a top running speed of 28.9 feet/second on the bases. While that number has dropped a bit from his rookie year, it still placed him within the 89th percentile of the league. But when we combine his speed with some of his other traits, we start to get a full picture of the value he brings to the lineup.
Many speed players have trouble making contact, or with laying off the tough pitches. This isn’t the case for Jankowski, though. This season, he displayed an ability to lay off pitches out of the zone by swinging just 16.1% of the time at them. He also lays off the first pitch of the at bat an astonishing 75.6% of the time.
For the season, these numbers translated to a .263 batting average and an OBP of .357. But what’s even more impressive is his .311 average for the season on balls in play. Jankowski gets hits, gets on base, lays off the junk pitches, and then makes his way around the bases quickly.
With Jankowski in the lineup, the Rangers can execute and capitalize on a little more “small ball.” Simply put, he is capable of beating Arizona at their own game. And with a pitching staff that likes to paint corners and induce swings and misses, his patience at the dish is the kind of thing the Rangers have needed a little more of.
While the loss of García in the lineup does reduce the amount of “pop” that’s there, players like Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Nathaniel Lowe, Mitch Garver, Jonah Heim, and Josh Jung are still more than capable of going yard at any moment. And when they do, it’s even better if they have guys like Jankowski on base to increase the run output.
The other major tool that Jankowski is missing compared to García is his arm. Jankowski doesn’t quite have the “rocket for an arm” that El Bombi possesses. But that’s something that can be lessened perhaps by moving Evan Carter to right and putting Jankowski in left. This would lessen the disparity in arm strength in right, but also add a little more speed to the left side, creating a little bit of possible balance to the situation while Leody Taveras continues to take center.
Having said all this, the hope is that García will return quickly, or at least be available to pinch hit in key situations. But if needed, Jankowski is more than capable of jumping into the starting lineup and bringing a little extra flavor to the already potent Texas lineup. How much he will be needed, remains to be seen.
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