Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston recently stated that rookie phenom Travis Snider, only 21, would have to play himself off the team this spring. The left-handed outfielder rocketed through the system last year, playing at four levels (including the Majors) despite beginning the year stuck at DH with a wonky elbow.
The 14th overall pick of the 2006 draft out of a Washington state high school has a career minor league line of .299/.375/.513 in 1,138 at-bats. Last season, he spent the majority of the season in Double-A and struggled with his batting average and strikeouts. However, his elbow was reportedly the cause of the early problems; Snider hit .125/.288/.125 with 18 strikeouts in his first 32 at-bats at that level. He ended his stint in Double-A at .262 and then hit .344 in an 18-game stay in Triple-A.
Snider was called up to the Majors to finish the season and more than held his own as a 20 year old. He hit .301/.338/.466 with a .164 ISO in 73 at-bats. He also posted rates of 6.4 BB% and 31.5 K%. His walk rates have been better in the minors, so that should improve before too long. Snider’s strikeout rate, though, will likely be high until he acclimatizes to the Majors and matures a bit as a hitter. As a result, don’t expect him to hit for a high average any time soon. That said, he has a swing that could eventually produce a few .290-.310 seasons. He also has 35-homer power.
Defensively, Snider has the arm to play right field, but the range for left. That should not be an issue with two of the better defensive outfielders in the American League in center field (Vernon Wells) and right field (Alex Rios). Adam Lind, 25, could also spend some time in left when he is not in the designated-hitter role. Unfortunately, both promising youngsters swing from the left side so a platoon is not in order. Snider has more power than Lind, but the U of South Alabama alum is more likely to flirt with a .300 average at this point.
Snider should be in the top five when it comes to considering prospects to draft for your keeper leagues, and he could have an immediate impact in all fantasy leagues while competing for the Rookie of the Year award in the American League. The only thing that could prevent him from hitting 20 homers in his first full Major League season is an injury.