The Argument for Believing in Travis Snider with a Caveat

I’m about as big a Travis Snider fan as you will find out there. I locked him up long term in my fantasy league, have always thought he could hit 40 HRs one day, still believe that may be so, and don’t believe the Jays have another outfielder in their system that can match his potential ceiling.

The problem many Jays fans are dealing with right now is just when are we going to see the fully matured Travis Snider?

The Argument for Believing in Travis Snider

Before I point out what I’ve observed as some of his deficiencies, I want to take everyone back to 2006. Jose Bautista, with the Pirates at the time, was 25 years old and he managed the following:

20 doubles, 16 HRs, 2 SBs, 110 SO, 46 BB, and a .235/.335/.420 line, all in 400 ABs.

To put Snider’s 2010 stats into perspective in comparison, he was 3 years younger, hit the following:

20 doubles, 14 HRs, 6 SBs, 79 SO, 21 BB, all with a .255/.304/.463 line.

The biggest difference? Snider did it all with 100 fewer ABs.

What does this tell us? Well, that if he makes the right changes, Snider could one day wind up being just as great a hitter as Bautista is today, and could be much younger when he reaches that peak performance level. That’s what. It doesn’t mean that it will happen, but the simple fact that it could is enticing.

So, if we see what we are now getting from Jose Bautista, and project what we could see from Snider in comparison at a much younger age, what does it tell us about today? It tells us that we should be VERY patient in waiting for Snider to figure things out, because once he does, he could be just as good as – or even better – than Jose Bautista, and that’s saying a lot.

He’s only 23 years old, still only has 761 plate appearances to his credit and so still could use some experience in the majors, and he showed glimpses of what he could do last season before getting injured. Last March April (2010), Snider hit the following:

71 AB / 11 hits / 4 doubles / 3 HRs / 5 RBI / 1 SB / 12 BB / 17 SO / .155 avg / .277 OBP / .338 SLG

So, it’s not like April has been friendly to Snider in the past. He proceeded to hit the following in May 2010:

45 AB / 17 hits / 6 doubles / 3 HRs / 10 RBI / 2 SB / 2 BB / 12 SO / .378 avg / .404 OBP / .711 SLG

This April, Snider has hit the following through most of April:

75 AB / 13 hits / 4 doubles / 1 HR / 11 RBI / 5 SBs / 9 BB / 21 SO / .173 avg / .271 OBP / .267 SLG

What does the comparison of April 2010 and April 2011 listed above tell us? That Snider is basically having the same start that he did in 2010 this season, albeit with more displays of base stealing ability and while driving in more runs. If we can expect the same kind of upswing as we saw in 2010 this May, Travis Snider should be on every fantasy baseball fan’s list and Jays fans should be in for a treat.

Snider’s Issues at the Plate

I’ve been watching his ABs very closely of late and have notice one glaring trend that goes completely the opposite way than Jose Bautista’s approach at the plate: Snider lays off the pitches inside and just can’t lay off of pitches away. The remedy? In my humblest of opinions, Snider needs to learn to turn on every single pitch inside and crush it the same way Bautista does. This would mean using a quick torso to turn on pitches ASAP, as Bautista currently does – hence the violent looking swings that he takes. If he does this well enough, he can continue to look for pitches inside or over the plate, and not even consider looking for pitches on the outer half of the plate. Taking his mind off of that side of the plate is the key to improving his approach at the plate.

If he doesn’t do that, he may continue to go fishing for the sliders and curves off the plate and away, and will continue to struggle overall. Pitchers have made adjustments to Snider, and now he needs to adjust accordingly. Bautista took quite a few years to figure things out and changed his approach before it all came through for him. In my opinion, Snider needs to make similar adjustments. Hey, no team or pitcher has been able to figure how to quell Bautista’s bat, so why not try the same approach at the late?

People are tiring of watching Snider swing at pitches trailing away. I know he’s frustrated about his performance as well, but, I have yet to see him make any significant changes at the plate aside from the bat on the shoulder bit that he had for a few ABs. I don’t know if moving his legs some (the right one towards the plate in particular) would help him reach pitches a little further away and allow him to stay on pitches a little longer, but something has to give….right? Change something!

Some people may ask why he needs to change anything and may argue that all he needs is some experience…..for them, I have a message in my next section.

The Caveat

Snider’s about to be pushed by man others in LF. He’s got to compete against Eric Thames who is one of the hottest hitters in the PCL, he’s got Brett Lawrie to worry about if he can’t break through in the infield, he’s got Juan Rivera who the Jays continue to throw out there consistently, and he’s got Scott Podsednik coming back from the DL and who’ll be pressing for some playing time. Now, hopefully Podsednik’s playing time will come at the cost of Juan Rivera’s playing time, but you never do know these days. The Jays recently sent Brett Cecil down to AAA for him to work some things out and may be open to doing the same with Snider if he continues on his .159/.256/.261 line (at the time I wrote this article).

My point? If he doesn’t get moving soon, he could find himself struggling to stay on the 25-man roster, never mind being the starting LF. Moises Sierra, Jacob Marisnick, Marcus Knecht, and Michael Crouse are all 2-3 years away from the majors at this point, but knowing how much Alex Anthopoulos embraces open competition, you have to begin to wonder if Snider will be able to hang on to the LF job long term now that we know Jose Bautista is staying in RF.

Final Thoughts on Snider

I don’t think the Jays are going to do anything rash with Snider at this point. They know that they could have something special in-house if he figures things out and could wind up in Bautista form within 2-3 years. However, there’s also no guarantee that they won’t consider sending him back to AAA for him to figure some things out for a short time. It’s obvious that his confidence is shaken or that frustration has set in, so doing something to get it back up to par. My contention is that the next time Snider gets hot, it could be for a very long time and at a higher level than any of us have seen thus far.

- MG

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