Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who Is Travis Buck?

The only thing I knew of Travis Buck when the Indians signed him to a minor league contract (December 20, 2010) is that he was once a top 50 prospect by Baseball America (#50 pre-2007), had a good rookie season with Oakland in 2007, and  had injury problems ever since.  With Grady Sizemore not expected to be ready by opening day and Trevor Crowe unable to participate in drills and certainly not etched in stone on the major league roster regardless of health there seems to be an opening for Travis Buck.  Buck isn't hurting his cause as he is not only hitting well but receiving accolades from the managers and the media surrounding the Indians.  Buck seems happy to be in Cleveland, he describes his arrival to Cleveland to Jordan Bastian of : "Right when I walked in here," Buck said, "I dropped all that baggage at the door. It's a new, fresh beginning."

With Buck's injuries and his inability to develop power as a corner outfielder it came as no surprise that the A's non-tendered him at the end of the 2010 season.  It was no secret in the Bay Area of Buck's frustration with the A's for what he perceived as a lack of opportunity and the A's frustration with Buck's apparent inability to stay healthy.  The frustration of Travis Buck could be felt in an interview given to Joe Stiglich of the Oakland Tribune (link here) on March 3, 2011:
  • Buck shares that he grew so disillusioned with the A's that he sought professional therapy last season. He had sessions with a neuropsychologist, hoping that would uncover some of his injury problems, and visited a psychotherapist to talk through mounting stress.
  •  "I had so much crap and negative energy in my mind that no matter how I tried to hide it, it wasn't going away."
  • Buck, 27, referred to things he put up with "both on the field and in the clubhouse" with the A's but declined to identify which individuals might have been the source of that.
  • "Half the time I didn't know my role, and the communication was kind of nonexistent," he said. "I was so screwed up in my head to where I wasn't able to be myself." 
Upon signing with the Indians, Waiting for Next Year (WFNY) did a  nice profile of Travis Buck (link here).  As Spring Training has progressed, there has been some talk of a Kearns/Buck platoon in LF.  This topic was covered by Paul Cousineau of the Diatribe (link here).  

Travis Buck was an infielder in high school in Richland, Washington and the Seattle Mariners thought enough of him to  draft him in the 23rd round, but he chose to enroll at Arizona State University.   Buck was an accomplished outfielder at ASU where he was named Freshman 2nd team All-America  in 2003, was a Pac-10 Conference All-Star  and Summer League First Team All-American in 2004, and Pac-10 Conference All-Star and College World Series All-Tournament Team in 2005 .  He was drafted by the Oakland A's with the 36th pick (supplemental pick for the loss of Damien Miller) of the first round of the 2005 draft. 

He signed his contract with the A's on July 15, 2005 and reported to low A Vancouver of the Northwest League for a quick 9 game stint (interview with young Buck here) before being moved to A ball Kane County where he finished the final 32 games of the 2005 season.  Overall, Buck had a batting average of .346, an on-base percentage o f.429, and a slugging percentage of .491 (OPS of .920). 

The A's moved Buck to High A Stockton of the California League where he hit .349/.400/.603 in 32 games before being promoted to AA Midland of the Texas League where he hit .302/.376/.472 in 50 games.  Buck had his season cut short and one of the oddest periods of injury evaluation occurred (interview about the injury here).  The original diagnosis was a strained hip-flexor and a hernia, then an MRI revealed that the hip-flexor was fine but he did have a hernia.   He went to a general surgeon who said that he did not in fact have a hernia.  Buck continued to rehab and was assigned to the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League where he only appeared in 6 games when the pain became too sharp. The A's sent him to a Sports Hernia Guru in Philadelphia who said that he did have a hernia and his abdominal muscle was pulling away from his pubic bone.

Due to injuries to the Oakland A's outfielders and a strong spring, Travis Buck skipped AAA and made the A's opening day roster and became their primary right fielder.  Buck had tremendous success in the 82 games he played in 2007, hitting .288/.377/.474, an OPS of .850, and  a .380 wOBA.  His season was interrupted by injuries to his wrist and hamstring, a bout with a virus, and a trip to the disabled list with a right thumb injury.  Buck came back from his thumb injury only to fight forearm and elbow injuries until August where a torn hamstring near the end of August ended his season.

Buck opened the 2008 season as the A's starting right fielder and would get off to a horrible start, hitting .154/.197/.277.  Buck had missed time early in April due to a shin injury and finally the A's would move him to the disabled list on April 24th.  Buck would miss 18 games due to the shin injury and when it was time to activate him the A's sent him to AAA Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League.  Buck played well in Sacramento and was recalled by the A's on May 30th only to continue to struggle and be sent back to AAA on June 13th.  Buck would have his season interrupted by a concussion and inner ear infection that cost him a month.  His finals numbers in AAA were .296/.396/.402, a .783 OPS, and a .374 wOBA covering  197 plate appearances.  Overall with the A's, Buck hit .226/.291/.432, a 723 OPS, and a .316 wOBA covering 172 PA.

Buck again opened the 2009 season as the A's right fielder and like the 2008 season got off to a slow start.  Buck suffered a strained oblique muscle on May 30th and was put on the disabled list. Like his injury in 2008, when he was ready to come off the disabled list, the A's sent him to AAA Sacramento.  He was recalled on June 29 to add depth to the team and was sent back to Sacramento on July 6.  Buck was recalled by the A's on September 19th where he played in 5 games before missing the remaining three games due to a illness.  His 2009 season with the A's was very dull with a slash line of .219/.287/.333, an OPS of .620, and a wOBA of .291 covering 115 PA.  His finished the season with Sacramento hitting .272/.345/.418, an OPS of .763, and a wOBA of .352 covering 266 PA.

The winter of 2010 is where the bad blood between Travis Buck and the Oakland A's seemed to begin to show itself.  After the A's signed outfielders Coco Crisp and Gabe Gross, Buck was quoted in an interview with Rob Neyer as saying:  “It’s crazy, right? I have no idea what’s going on. You tell me.”   But, in spite of the additional outfielders, Travis Buck opened the 2010 season on the A's roster.  As if he was trying to duplicate the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Buck had an awful April hitting .219/.324/.375 before succumbing to yet another oblique injury.  Buck missed 86 games and when it was ready for him to come off the DL he was optioned to AAA Sacramento.  He spent two weeks in Sacramento before receiving a recall to Oakland on August 16th.  He appeared in 3 games before being sent back to Sacramento to finish the year.  He ended his season with the A's hitting  .167/.255/.286, with an OPS of .0541, and a wOBA of .248, covering only 48 PA.  In Sacramento, Buck hit .298/.364/.463, with an OPS of .827, and wOBA of .365, covering 141 PA. 

With Bucks injuries and his inability to develop power as a corner outfielder it came as no surprise that the A's non-tendered him at the end of the 2010 season.  The Cleveland Indians signed him to a minor league contract on December 20, 2010.

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