ZEBULON, N.C.—Travis Demeritte was born in New York, but moved to Georgia with his family when he was seven and grew up rooting for the Atlanta Braves.
When told he was traded last week, there was shock for the 21-year-old second baseman. But when he found where he was going, he felt a surge of excitement.
“To be coming back home and the chance to one day play in front of my family for the hometown team, that was pretty exciting,” said Demeritte, who was traded by the Rangers to the Braves on July 26. “Once they told me the team, that threw even a bigger curveball at me, but I was excited to be coming home.”
Demeritte officially wrapped up his first week as a member of the Braves organization on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 for high Class A Carolina in a 3-1 loss to Winston-Salem (White Sox).
Already, the 30th overall pick in 2013 has shown his new coaching staff the power, speed, reliable glove and above-average arm that convinced the Braves he was worth trading two major league pitchers—starter Lucas Harrell and reliever Dario Alvarez—to the Rangers.
“The little bit we’ve seen from him is really good,” Carolina hitting coach Carlos Mendez said. “He has some bat speed, really athletic. You see it in BP. The sound of the bat when he hits, it’s different. It’s a good sound. We’re excited to have him. ”
While all his good qualities have been apparent, the one ever-present question mark with Demeritte is his strikeouts. He opened Wednesday with a hard line drive single to the opposite field in his first at-bat, but struck out swinging in his final two plate appearances of the day.
The 2013 first-round pick is now 3-for-22 with 13 strikeouts since joining the Braves organization a week ago, and has 138 strikeouts in 94 games this season overall.
“First couple of games I obviously wanted to come here and do well and I started pressing a little bit,” Demeritte said. “Today for example, later in the game I started getting out of my approach a little bit, swinging at a lot of offspeed stuff and balls that weren’t in the zone. Kind of pressing a little bit. I was able to get the first one, wanted to get another. Like I said, I’ve just got to reel it back in and let the game come to me.”
Strikeouts aside, 2016 has overall been a breakout season for Demeritte. He was hitting .272/.352/.583 with a California League-leading 25 home runs for high Class A High Desert at the time he was traded, and was named the starting second baseman in the Cal-Carolina League All-Star Game and for the U.S. Team in the Futures Game.
While his true power has at times been called into question—17 of his 25 home runs were hit in home run havens High Desert and Lancaster—there is no doubt about it within his new organization.
“You have bat speed like him, you’re going to hit the ball out of the park,” Mendez said. “When you’re in a hitter friendly park and you hit homers, you still have power. It might give you five or six extra homers, but you don’t take that away from him because he has bat speed.”
In the meantime, Demeritte is just getting settled in playing for his dream organization. Already, he smiles just at the mention of playing for the Braves.
“Definitely went to a few of their games when I was younger,” Demeritte said. “It’s exciting, that’s for sure.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• Winston-Salem’s Zack Collins went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored to lead the way for the Dash. The 10th overall pick in June was the designated hitter in his third game since coming off the disabled list with a concussion. He stroked his first two hits to the opposite field before driving a hard single into right in his final at-bat of the day.
• Winston-Salem lefthander Tanner Banks pitched eight innings, gave up five hits and one run, didn’t walk anyone and struck out a career-high nine while throwing just 77 pitches. The White Sox’s 18th-round selection in 2014 sat 90-93 mph with his fastball and 85-87 with his slider, holding his velocity into the later innings. He has now given up just two earned runs in his last 20 1/3 innings, with 17 strikeouts and two walks in that time.