With Dexter Fowler expected to sign with another team, the front office is exploring ways to add a centerfielder to the roster. The Cubs believe Albert Almora Jr. is the centerfielder of the future, but the front office believes he needs more time before he is ready to handle the job on a daily basis.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said publicly the Cubs would like to acquire a left-handed hitting centerfielder to complement Almora Jr. The Cubs have been linked to the Yankees’ Brett Gardner and Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies.
Another player to keep an eye on is the Padres’ Travis Jankowski.
Bruce Levine has reported several times on his Saturday morning show (Inside the Clubhouse) and during multiple updates on 670 The Score that Jankowski is one of the outfielders the Cubs are interested in pairing with Almora Jr. in center field.
Jankowski can leadoff and play center field. He is rather raw with a ton of speed. In the right environment on a team with a coaching staff that is capable of getting the most out of a player’s abilities, Jankowski might be able to reach his ceiling.
The Padres selected Jankowski in the first round (44th overall pick) in the 2012 draft. Jankowski made his big league debut on August 21, 2015. After playing 34 games a year ago in the majors, Jankowski appeared in 131 games this past season.
The lefty hitting, 25-year old (June 15) batted .245/.332/.313 with 13 doubles, two triples and two home runs for a .646 OPS. He walked 42 times with 100 strikeouts in 335 at-bats. Jankowski played 87 games in center, 22 games in right field and nine games in left.
Jankowski did not spend any time in the minors after playing 97 games at the Double- and Triple-A levels in 2015. Jankowski hit a combined .335/.413/.425 with 17 doubles, seven triples and one home run for a .838 OPS. In 24 games with Triple-A El Paso in the PCL during the 2015 season, Jankowski hit .392/.464/.495 with a .959 OPS.
Against right-handers this past season, Jankowski hit .275/.368/.359 with 11 doubles, two triples and two home runs for a .727 OPS. Versus left-handed pitchers, Jankowski batted only .155/.220/.179 in 93 plate appearances.
Batting at the top of the Padres’ lineup, Jankowski hit .258/.346/.331 in 74 games with a .677 OPS. Leading off innings, he had a .306/.392/.381 line with a .773 OPS. And hitting first in 71 games, Jankowski batted .365/.437/.460 with a .897 OPS.
Jankowski was 30-for-42 in stolen bases and has swiped 32 bags in 45 attempts in 165 games in the majors. In the minors, he stole 71 bases in 2013 and over four seasons in the minor leagues he had 137 stolen bases in 172 attempts.
Travis Jankowski is not arbitration eligible until 2019. He has only 1.047 years of service time and is under club control for five more seasons, through 2021.