Giants Top 50: #9 - Travis Ishikawa

It's hard to be hard on him. He's a guy that is eminently likable. He works hard, has a good attitude and doesn't forget about the parts of the game (like defense) that others seem to forget in these hitter friendly days. But 2006 was a tough year, and it leaves him in need of proving himself all over again in 2007. #9 is Travis Ishikawa!

Date of Birth: 09/24/1983 Position: 1B Height: 6'3" Weight: 190 Bats: L Throws: L
Acquired: Drafted in the 21st Round (#637 Overall) of the 2002 Drafted
2006 Stats
Connecticut - AA .232 .316 .403 .719 298 33 69 13 4 10 42 35 88 0 0
San Francisco - MLB .292 .320 .500 .820 24 1 7 3 1 0 4 1 6 0 0
Scottsdale - AFL .186 .234 .271 .506 59 5 11 3 1 0 7 4 17 1 0

Well, at least he did well in the majors.

Travis Ishikawa made his major league debut in 2006, and he did pretty well, albeit in just 24 at bats over 12 games.

But aside from that positive, 2006 was a very rough year for Ishikawa.  Ishikawa was seemingly as affected as anyone in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League, and he struggled to a .232 average through call-ups, send-downs, and injuries.

Certainly, Ishikawa had more than enough distractions that could explain, or at least contributed, to such an awful year, but then again, Ishikawa's been a hot and cold player so much through his career that it's hard to not wonder if the troubles were only from the contributing factors.

When looking at Ishikawa, he looks like a ballplayer better than just about anyone in the system.  At 6'3", he's a tall and lean first baseman, and he has the ideal build for the position.  His motions also appear ideal; at first, he's an ideal defensive player.  He has the softest hands and quickest reflexes on the diamond, and can handle bad hops from both hits and throws.  He also has better range than most first basemen.

Similarly, at the plate, he looks like a ballplayer.  He stands firm at the plate, and his swing is smooth and easily covers the entire zone, inside-to-outside, letter high to the kneecaps.

But that's where trouble seems to happen.  Ishikawa's swing is fast, but he seems to have some problems on timing.  He's as likely to swing through a breaking pitch as he is through a mid-speed fastball, without making any contact at all.  And he can really chase breaking pitches out of the zone when he's on a bad streak, making the bad streaks even worse and opening up that deadly slump spiral.

At his best, Ishikawa has solid plate discipline.  He'll take pitches (sometimes too many), and has always drawn a fair amount of walks.  That has kept people who will generally criticize a high-strikeout player off his back, but his problem with strikeouts really became apparent at Double-A, as he took too many close pitches that went against him.

Ishikawa can just be so frustrating because when he's on, he is a spectacularly well-rounded player.  Sometimes it's left handed pitchers that give him fits, sometimes it's right handers.  When he's hitting well, he can take the right handed pitchers for power, and hit for good average going the other way with southpaws.  But sometimes, it seems like it's one or the other, and he doesn't adjust quick enough.

But again, Ishikawa had to deal with three different short stints in the majors between April, May, and June.  And they were short, lasting only 4, 5 and 8 games respectively.  And Ishikawa definitely had injury problems to his lower body, which helped him in his summer swoon (culminating in batting .170 in July) before a decent August brought him back up a little.

So which Ishikawa is for real?  Heck, that's a debate that's been going on for years and it isn't close to being settled.  Some feel his impressive tools can still come together, and they certainly could, but a savagely poor stint in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League took away any chance at momentum going into Spring Training.

At this point, it's not even a sure thing Ishikawa will be promoted with the rest of the core of 2005's San Jose championship team.  The issue could get even more clouded if Eddy Martinez-Esteve and his troublesome shoulders are moved to first.  Ishikawa has not had much competition for playing time at first throughout his minor league career.  EME can't play defense much anywhere, but he can definitely hit.

Ishikawa will be in Spring Training, and where he lands will hinge on his performance in camp, both with the big league team and after he gets sent to minor league camp.  But the best bet is that he'll find himself back in Connecticut, and he will have to prove his way into Triple-A.  He will also have to prove a consistency he has never found, and that could be the toughest thing.  If he can't find that, he'll never become the major league star many think he could be.

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