Angels’ Travis Witherspoon Finds Improved Batting Eye Is Paying Off

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Angels center-field prospect Travis Witherspoon has enjoyed one of the more unheralded loud seasons in the California League this season, batting .319/.399/.470 with seven homers and 25 steals (in 32 attempts) for Inland Empire through 270 at-bats. That performance earned him the starting nod in left field for the Cal League all-stars, while Lake Elsinore's Rico Noel handled center. The 23-year-old Witherspoon played the entire game, went 1-for-4 and stole second base in the second inning after reaching on an infield single off the glove of Frederick third baseman Ty Kelly.

Witherspoon said his goals at the plate for this season are simple. "I'm trying to stay more consistent and use the whole field," he said prior to the all-star game.

The goal is to cut down on strikeouts and boost his average, to which end he has honed his batting eye this season. Witherspoon sports enhanced walk (10.8 percent of plate appearances) and strikeout (17 percent) rates through the first half. Those improvements could allow him to hit .300 for the first time since rookie ball two years ago. Playing in the Cal League won't hurt his pursuit. "The hitting environments compare a bit with (Rookie-level) Orem (where he played in 2009-10) because the ball just flies," he said, going on to note two other factors that favor offense. "The weather is so consistently good that it's good for the hitters. Plus, the short bus trips are nice."

Witherspoon, a 12th-round pick in 2009, has been especially dangerous since May 2, batting .339/.444/.515 with 15 extra-base hits and 19 steals in 42 games. His walk-to-strikeout ratio in that span: 28-to-32.

The Angels rave about Witherspoon's foot speed and range in center field, and for his career he's gone 101-for-120 on the basepaths, good for an 84 percent success rate. A native of Sumter, S.C., Witherspoon grew up watching the Braves' Andruw Jones patrol center field on TBS, but he came to idolize Torii Hunter after being drafted by the Angels. "(Hunter) has been a huge influence for me," Witherspoon said. "I got to meet him at spring training and pick his brain a bit." He also touches base occasionally with White Sox infielder Orlando Hudson, who like Witherspoon is a product of Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC, a program that also counts Mookie Wilson and Reggie Sanders as alumni.