Proceed With Caution: OF Travis Snider

Travis Snider is one of the best high school bats from the 2006 draft and he’s risen awfully quickly through Toronto’s minor league system. Snider shot through three levels in 2008 and finished that season with the big league club. He wrapped up 2008 with a .301/.338/.466 line in 73 at-bats with the Jays. Not bad for a 20-year-old.

This led to some lofty expectations for the 21-year-old Snider in 2009. He started the season with the big league club and had a rocky 99 at-bats in April and May. Snider hit .242/.292/.394 with three home runs and struck out in 25% of his at-bats over that span. The Jays demoted Snider to the minors so he could hone up on his skills and get his bat on track.

Snider would spend the next three months with the Jays Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate. He would mash to the tune of .337/.431/.663 (27% strikeout rate) with 14 home runs over 175 at-bats. Snider played a nice hitters park and also experienced some renown hitters parks on the road but his home/road splits in Triple-A are negligible. He bashed at home (1.045 OPS) and did even better (1.123 OPS) on the road.

In the middle of August the Blue Jays summoned the hulking 6-foot and 235 pound Snider back up to the big leagues. Snider showed some improvement in the power department and over his final 142 at-bats he hit .239/.351/.437 with six home runs accompanied with a 37% strikeout rate. The strikeout rate is very alarming.

The lefthanded swinging Snider has plus power and projects to hit for average down the road but he’s always been prone to the strikeout and has struggled with lefties at the upper levels. After hitting a slender .233/.295/.310 in 116 AA and AAA at-bats versus lefties in 2008 (credit Baseball America’s 2009 Prospect Handbook for that fact) Snider improved in 2009 at Las Vegas. There he hit .396/.473/.667 in only 48 at-bats but his big league showing against them (.225/.333/.275) in 40 at-bats points towards much needed improvement albeit the small sample sizes.

2010 will be Snider’s 22-year-old season and he has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. Snider is going to be a corner stone during the Jays rebuilding project and it’s a given fact that he’s going to strike out a lot but his plus power is extremely tantalizing.

Snider should be allowed to develop at the big league level during the entire 2010 season. His troubles with lefties and alarming strikeout rate which steadily declined when he was recalled in August point towards growing pains in 2010. While he may be good for 20-25 big flies next season I foresee his strikeouts being a big issue and don’t expect him to hit any higher than .260-.270. The whiffs and his below average speed and thick lower half will lower his BABIP from the shockingly high minor league BABIPs he compiled.

Snider’s a big piece of Toronto’s future and I expect good production from him eventually but he’s got a lot of work to do in 2010 at the big league level. Keep him off your draft boards for now and try nabbing him off of the waiver wire during the season and ride out his hot streaks before the strikeouts cool him down.

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David MVP Eckstein

His MLE line last season was .264/.343/.500 (.843 OPS)