It seems that everyone is currently focused on the new Manager, Manny’s interest in the Jays, and Jose Bautista‘s issues (which I will cover in an upcoming post). However, the most interesting aspect of 2011 and the potential for the Jays to make a move lies more in the bat of Travis Snider than any other hitter.
You may wonder why I point him out of the crowd. Well, here’s how I break it down.
Jose Bautista had a career year, no question, but is already hitting his 30s and undergoing surgery, which means that his production may go down some. His underproduction from 2010 levels should be covered by what I hope is a resurgence of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. Their 2010 performances did not do their talents justice and I fully expect them to hit at a much higher level in 2011. Aaron will be playing for a contract since his 2012-14 contracts are club options, while Adam has no contract issues to worry about. All 3 players will undoubtedly amount to a good level of production that should match or even surpass their collaborative output from 2010, which bodes well for the core of the lineup.
I think that we can all agree that Vernon Wells proved that his wrist issues really were the issue in 2009. His 2010 numbers bounced back to expectations, and there is no reason to believe that his production should falter in 2011. The Jays seem to be settled behind the plate, with Alex Anthopolous putting all of his support behind J.P. Arencibia and it being very likely that the Jays will pick up Jose Molina‘s $1 million club option. What better teacher for J.P. behind the plate than the crafty defensive specialist?
That leaves Yunel Escobar, Edwin Encarnacion and Fred Lewis as the only regulars not named Snider to be covered here. Yunel will undoubtedly have his ups and downs in 2011, but overall I expect he will do his job and get on base often with a .280 or above average and 15+ HRs. Edwin may not be back and will most likely be replaced by either a FA, such as Adrian Beltre, or through trade. The Jays do have internal options at 3B in Brad Emaus and Shawn Bowman who both played in AAA and AA respectively last season, but I think we can all agree neither will be the starting 3B in 2011. As for Fred Lewis, unless he’ll accept a lesser role – which is doubtful – he will most likely be non-tendered and become a FA. With Darin Mastroianni, Anthony Gose, and Eric Thames making noise in the minors as outfielders, the Jays do not need to spend much money on someone like Lewis to be successful.
That leaves us with one big question mark in the lineup, or namely, will 2011 be Travis Snider’s big coming out year?
My answer is a big fat yes, and here’s why.
In the first half of the 2010 season, Snider’s stats were as follows:
116 ABs/ 28 hits/ 10 doubles/ 6 HRs/ 15 RBI/ .241 avg/ .323 OBP/ .483 SLG/ .806 OPS/ 14 BB/ 29 SO
In the second half of the 2010 season, Snider’s stats were as follows:
182 AB/ 48 hits/ 10 doubles/ 8 HRs/ 17 RBI/ .264 avg/ .291 OBP/ .451 SLG/ .742 OPS/ 7 BB/ 50 SO
Now, I know what you’re all thinking. What is he talking about? The stats all look worse in the 2nd half aside from his average! Well, when we delve deeper into the stats, we see that post all-star break, Travis had a horrible time, which pulled down all of his second half stats. Then, during the last month of the season, he pieced it all together to amass these stats – his second best month of the season:
97 AB/ 28 hits/ 4 doubles/ 6 HRs/ 9 RBI/ .289 avg/ .303 OBP/ .515 SLG/ .818 OPS/ 2 BB/ 24 SO
And like I said, that was his 2nd best month of the season. The month of May showed Snider’s real potential with the following stats:
45 AB/ 17 hits/ 6 doubles/ 3 HRs/ 10 RBI/ .378 avg/ .404 OBP/ .711 SLG/ 1.115 OPS/ 2 BB/ 12 SO
Now, Snider did sustain a wrist injury in the end of May that slowed him down for the rest of 2010, but as I showed above, his stats picked up again before the end of the year – most notably his power numbers with 6 HRs over the last month of the year.
Finally, and this is the major point I wanted to make – all Travis has to learn to do is to watch Jose Bautista and he will become one of the most dominant hitters in all of MLB. Why? Well, here are his numbers versus power pitchers:
77 AB/ 10 hits/ 4 doubles/ 2 HRs/ 8 RBI/ .130 avg/ .183 OBP/ .260 SLG/ .443 OPS/ 5 BB/ 37 SO
versus average power pitchers
100 AB/ 25 hits/ 7 doubles/ 2 HRs/ 4 RBI/ .250 avg/ .318 OBP/ .380 SLG/ .698 OPS/ 10 BB/ 21 SO
and finally, versus finesse pitchers
121 AB/ 41 hits/ 9 doubles/ 10 HRs/ 20 RBI/ .339 avg/ .370 OBP/ .661 SLG/ 1.031 OPS/ 6 BB/ 21 SO
Travis absolutely dominated finesse pitchers. However, as you are all probably aware, his swing is a little long and therefore he gets behind the ball and does what Jose Bautista used to do – foul off a ton of pitches from power or close to power pitchers. Jose’s remidy was to start his swing earlier in order to get a better jump and pronto, he had a career year. I fully believe that Travis will come to the same realization, is more mature now as he’ll begin the year as a 23 year old, and that his potential is truly off the charts.
The hard part for Travis is already done, as he can handle the off speed pitches, sliders and curve balls. He simply needs to learn to catch up to hard-sliders and fastballs, and he’ll increase his output by a ton. There are a ton of hitters out there who would love to have Snider’s issue instead of having troubles against pitches with movement.
While everyone was rightly interested in whether or not the Jays would add Manny Ramirez this off season and how – or whether – he’d be able to work himself into the lineup on a regular basis, I think the bigger issue is how much of an impact will Travis Snider have in this already potent lineup and would acquiring Manny Ramirez stunt his growth?
If the Jays acquire Manny Ramirez, he’s not going to settle for hitting 7th in the lineup if things don’t go well from the start. His acquisition would almost guarantee that Snider would begin the year in the 7th hole in the lineup, and thus would lead to fewer ABs.
I am really looking forward to seeing what Travis Snider can do in a fully healthy season during 2011. He’ll have more support than ever in the lineup, now has the experience and has had success in periods to prove that his talent is for real, and is truly a super star in the making with the Jays. Don’t forget his potential as we head towards 2011 and the rumors start flying about acquisitions in the outfield or at DH. Too many acquisitions could hurt his position in the lineup, his opportunity to shine, and thus lead to a lesser year for Travis. I expect Alex Anthopolous knows this already and is therefore looking to add strength at other positions, namely at the corners of the infield.
I wonder how great the Jays season will be if Travis Snider has a 500+ AB/ .310 avg/ .360 OBP/ 30+ HR/ 75+ RBI kind of season? Hopefully we’re all about to find out! I have extremely high expectations of Travis Snider’s output in 2011 and believe that he, and the bullpen changes, will be the biggest difference makers to the Jays in 2011.