Travis Jankowski emerged as a fantasy darling of sorts, piling up 30 stolen bases despite a part-time role for a significant portion of the season. Just as he did in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015, Jankowski showed a good eye at the plate (11 percent walk rate), which buoyed a .332 OBP and enabled him to lead off in 71 of the 82 games he started. The Padres scaled back his playing time slightly down the stretch following a late-season promotion of Manuel Margot, and it's possible that Jankowski will be placed in a fourth outfielder role to begin 2017, with Margot and Hunter Renfroe in the mix for Opening Day roster spots. A good defender, Jankowski has the speed and instincts necessary to be an above average center fielder, but he has very limited power and will need to put the ball in play more often (26.1 percent strikeout rate) in order to solidify a starting job, and it's likely that he would be used as part of a strict platoon against right-handed starters.
With Alex Dickerson expected to miss at least a month of baseball activities, Jankowski will likely start the 2017 as the top option in left field. The 25-year-old has had some stops and starts as a former Padres prospect, but with playing time comes a clearer path to repeat his 30-steal effort in 2016. Jankowski's .245 average reflects his issues making contact, but he has a 9.6 percent walk rate in 479 career MLB plate appearances, which increases his value in OBP leagues and sustains his frequency of opportunities to swipe bags. Count Jankowski as a late-round source for stolen bases in many mixed leagues, even if he has to lose platoon at-bats against southpaws, possibly to the scorching-hot Jabari Blash.
Jankowski led off and went 1-for-3 with an RBI in Sunday's spring training loss to the Indians. Jankowski has been playing well in early Cactus League action, batting .333 (9-for-27) with a homer and a steal. The speedy outfielder has already secured a spot on the Opening Day roster, but his strong start has put him in the conversation to begin the year as the Padres' starting left fielder. Also helping his case is Alex Dickerson's inability to return from a back injury. While manager Andy Green has yet to announce an official starter -- and likely won't until we get closer to Opening Day -- Jankowski has taken the early lead. If he wins the job, his speed will give him some fantasy value; he accrued 30 stolen bases and 53 runs in 382 plate appearances last season.
While he may not be an everyday starter, Jankowski should see semi-regular playing time this season. Jankowski got some run after the team dealt away Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. last season, finishing the year with a .245/.332/.313 slash line and 30 stolen bases. While the speedy outfielder possesses plus speed and defensive skills, he would likely take a backseat in terms of games started to younger, more-offensive outfielders like Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Alex Dickerson.
Jankowski is not in the lineup Friday against the Giants. Jankowski started the past seven games, hitting safely in five of those contests, but he'll head to the bench for a night off as the Padres continue to see how their up-and-coming prospects perform at the major league level. Alex Dickerson, Jon Jay, and Hunter Renfroe will make up the outfield from left to right field.
Jankowski is out of the lineup Wednesday against the Giants. This is the third straight game that Jankowski has sat in favor of Jon Jay in center field, so unless he is dealing with an undisclosed ailment, it's safe to say he has been passed on the depth chart. With at least one of Hunter Renfroe or Manuel Margot expected to join the big league roster in the coming days, Jankowski could play sparingly down the stretch. He has hit .207 with a 26.6 percent K-rate over his last 30 games, so it would be understandable if the Padres were benching him for performance reasons.