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Travis Snider: Still a prospect

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I was going to title this post “Wither Snider?”, until I remembered that everyone — including and especially myself — hates with an incredible passion posts and/or columns that are titled: “Whither ______?” It’s the question mark that¬†really pisses me off. Are you asking me, or telling me?

Anyway, Snider’s Vegas vacation. Everyone is, unsurprisingly, up in arms about the demotion. I didn’t bother counting how many “Snider has nothing left to prove in AAA!” tweets I read yesterday. Far too many. Who said Snider was Vegas bound because he has to prove he can hit AAA-pitching? Nobody. Because he’s done that already. As Alex Anthopoulos confirmed Friday morning, the demotion, like Brett Cecil’s, is about fixing mechanical issues. In Snider’s case, his swing, obviously. And, frankly, I don’t care whether Anthopoulos mentioned Snider’s confidence, or lack thereof, as an issue. Does he look confident at the plate? No, he looks the opposite; he looks lost. While I appreciate the notion that Snider should be allowed to struggle and work out of his funk at the MLB level, especially considering the Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere this season, the belief that that’s something that can be easily done in the AL East is foolhardy. What if Snider continues to scuffle? How might an entire lost season — say, for example, an Aaron Hill 2010-type season — impact a young Snider? I’d rather not find out.

Whether people are willing to accept it or not, Snider remains a prospect. He’s only 23-years-old.¬†While the decision Thursday afternoon certainly came as a surprise, it didn’t come as a surprise-surprise, you know what I mean? Not to me, at least. Not after watching Snider over the past month.

Look at his numbers. They’re God awful. It’s not just Snider’s low BABIP (.238), and his frighteningly low ISO (.080). His LD% (14.1%) is approaching Hill territory. His IFBB% is a Vernon Wellsian 20%. There’s something wrong, a combination of confidence and mechanics. So far in 2011, and this is what concerns me most, it’s fastballs that are giving Snider the most trouble. In only one month — yes, a small sample size — Snider’s hitting fastballs for 5.0 runs below average. In 2008 and 2009, when Snider made the jump to The Show, he hit fastballs for 4.2 and 3.6 runs above average, respectively. As has been pointed out in the Blue Jays blogosphere, Snider’s opposite field power has disappeared. Remember: he’s 23. A trip to Vegas is hardly the end of the world. It just feels that way.

Snider was drafted 14th overall in the 2006 MLB draft, out of high school. Below are Snider’s career MLB numbers — his wOBA, wRC+ and plate appearances — compared with those position players that went before and after him in the same draft, along with their current age in parentheses. For those players who haven’t yet made it to the big leagues, their highest level of baseball is stated.

Evan Longoria (25) — 3rd overall, Tampa Bay — 1846 PA, .376 wOBA, 133 wRC+

Drew Stubbs (26) — 8th overall, Cincinnati — 887 PA, .346 wOBA, 110 wRC+

Billy Rowell (22) — 9th overall, Baltimore — No MLB experience — AA

Tyler Colvin (25) — 13th overall, Chicago NL — No MLB experience — AA

Travis Snider (23) — 14th overall, Toronto — 774 PA, .322 wOBA, 96 wRC+

Chris Marrero (22) — 15th overall, Washington — No MLB experience — AAA

Matt Antonelli (26) — 17th overall, San Diego — No MLB experience — AAA

Chris Parmelee (23) — 20th overall, Minnesota — No MLB experience — AA

Maxwell Sapp (23) — 23rd overall, Houston — No MLB experience — A

Cody Johnson (22) — 24th overall, Atlanta — No MLB experience — AA

Hank Conger (23) — 25th overall, LAA — 78 PA, 319 wOBA, 101 wRC+

Jason Place (22) — 27th overall, Boston — No MLB experience — AA

Preston Mattingly (23) — 31st overall (supplemental), LAD — No MLB experience — A+

Emmanuel Burriss (26) — -33rd overall (supp.), San Francisco — 503 PA, .290 wOBA, 71 wRC+

Kyler Burke (23) — 35th overall (supp.), San Diego — No MLB experience — A+

Chris Coghlan (25) — 36th overall (supp.), Florida — No MLB experience — AAA

Adrian Cardenas (23) — 37th overall (supp.), Philadelphia — No MLB experience — AAA

Draft schmaft, right? Longoria, Stubbs, Snider and Burriss are the only four players drafted in the first round in 2006 who’ve had more than 500 MLB plate appearances. Snider’s the youngest of the four, and the only one of the four who was drafted out of high school. One of those guys listed above is no longer playing professional baseball.

Pardon me for going all Tampa Bay Rays on you for a second, but: “Trust the process.” Snider’s going to be great. Like you, I firmly believe it. It just might take a little longer than we’d all like.

While I know that all Travis Snider and Roy Halladay share in common is that they’re baseball players who’ve played for the Blue Jays, once upon a time, Roy Halladay was sent to A-ball. He worked out just fine.

Snider, too, will be worth the wait.

Image courtesy Ross McDonnell.

Written by Navin Vaswani

April 29th, 2011 at 12:38 pm