In a move Friday that perhaps says more about right-hander Jeremy Walker and the severity of his shoulder ailment, the Braves claimed former Atlanta top 25 prospect, infielder/outfielder Travis Demeritte, off waivers from the Tigers. Walker, who we here at SportsTalkATL had as the organization’s 16th ranked prospect in our 2021 Top 30, was released on Friday. The addition of Demeritte is a minor one, primarily aimed at giving Atlanta some potential bench depth. However, there was a time when the former 30th overall pick was expected to one day become a main contributor for the Braves.
Demeritte played in 383 games across nearly 3.5 minor league seasons for the Braves from 2016-19, posting a .247 AVG to go along with 55 home runs and a 122 wRC+ overall. Beginning his time in High-A Carolina (ATL’s advanced-a club before the Florida Fire Frogs), the 6-foot, 180-pound Demeritte had a knack for getting on base, not to mention he carried reliable speed and power, even earning an invite to Triple-A’s Home Run Derby in 2019.
Initially a top 20 prospect in the Rangers system (per MLB Pipeline in 2016), Demeritte — who cost the Braves pitchers Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez back in a 2016 trade with Texas — evolved into a top 15 prospect-hitter in the loaded Atlanta organization. However, despite what was bound to be a career campaign in 2019 — as Demeritte had slugged 20 homers in his first 96 games, including a .286 AVG and 139 wRC+ — the Braves shipped the second baseman/outfielder to the Tigers (along with pitcher Joey Wentz), in exchange for reliever Shane Greene.
With Greene still currently unemployed and having struggled during the second half of that ’19 season (followed by a decent improvement last year), Braves Country will probably always wonder whether or not is was worth it to move Demeritte on Deadline Day two seasons ago, especially given Wentz’s success in the Tigers system in ’19 in which he stuck out 13 batters per nine over his five starts, including a 2.10 ERA at Double-A Lake Erie.
The rough Detroit seasons
Immediately after being acquired by the Tigers, Demeritte was quickly thrown into the fire as Detroit was starved for big-league-ready talent. In a 48-game stint down the stretch of the 2019 season, Demeritte struggled to the tune of a .225 AVG to go along with a 37% K rate at the plate (64 wRC+) as the team’s starting right fielder. His still-developing hit tool didn’t get much better in 2020, either. In 18 games last season, Demeritte finished with a .172 AVG and an even worse 39 wRC+. He wasn’t ready for every-day at-bats at the major league level, and with a 51 wRC+ in nearly 60 games across parts of two seasons, Detroit DFA’d Demeritte this offseason, on February 5th.
Demeritte’s expectations in 2021
Demeritte returns to the Atlanta organization and will most likely compete for a bench spot on the major league roster this spring. It’s rather evident just how much his numbers crashed once with the Tigers, and given the Braves loaded starting core, Demeritte fits in nicely as a potential pinch-hitter/backup in the outfield.