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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  • gerard

    Thanks, Mat, for this interesting piece.

    My take on his plate approach is more or less the opposite of yours. Snider has largely lost his opposite-field power, and he looks like he’s out in front of too many pitches. Even when he’s putting pitches in play, he’s often looking like he’s having to slow his bat down and stay through the zone longer to make up for being ahead on an off-speed offering- or trying too hard to pull the ball. Rather than looking to pull pitches on the inside part of the plate, I think Snider should look to stay back on pitches out over the plate and drive them the other way. Hopefully, this would also help him deal with pitch recognition on off-speed stuff (especially curves and changeups), as it would give him a split-second longer to pull the trigger.

    An approach that might pay dividends for Snider is for him to be looking for the offspeed pitches, and adjust to the fastball. I’m not sure if that will work for him, but he has the bat speed for it, and it would help to solve his tendency to get fooled and swing over curves and changeups.

    • hgjrklfsel

      Lets look at some of Snider’s numbers.

      BB – 10.5 %
      K – 28.0 %

      Walking at a good rate, but also striking out far too much. Hes always struck out at a pretty high rate (about 26%), but he needs to get that number to around 25% or below.

      LD – 14.8 %
      Obviously far too low. Not making good contact at all. MLB average is about 20%. He hit line drives 24% of the time last season.

      GB – 48.1 %
      Probably hitting a few too many ground balls. As a power hitter, i’d want to see more balls hit in the air. This again is a result of poor contact i imagine.

      IFFB – 25.0 %
      Obviously the biggest issue here. Popping it up 25% of the time is not good. He hit infield flies 10% of the time last season.

      Obviously there is a lot of bad stuff going on with Snider at the plate. Hopefully he figures something out soon. It isn’t a matter of him just having bad luck or anything like that. He is sucking up there.
      He can’t seem to get around on fastballs on the inside part of the plate, and he can’t lay off offspeed stuff outside. Hopefully something clicks for him soon.

    • @2011mnbatigers

      Gerard, I agree with your analysis of Snider’s swing. He is starting very early (like Bautista) and trying to slow down his swing afterwords.

      Snider is not a pull hitter like Bautista and therefore should not be starting early.

      He is more like Lind in that he can pull the inside pitch out of the park, but is most effective by taking the middle to outside pitch out to left-centre.

      If he stays back on the ball, he’s bloop hits past the shortstop will be driven to the warning track.

  • Theo_Adorno

    The Bautista/Snider comparison is interesting but I am not sure that it is relevant or instructive. Here is a similar comparison – what conclusions can we draw from it?

    SNIDER 2010 (age 23)
    20 doubles, 14 HRs, 6 SBs, 79 SO, 21 BB, all with a .255/.304/.463 line.

    JUNIOR FELIX 1990 (age 22)
    23 Doubles, 15 HRs, 13SB, 99 SO, 45BB, .263/.328/.441 all in 517AB

    What do these numbers tell us? I would argue that this comparision tells us very little. Should we assume that Snider will follow Bautista’s trajectory and become one of the most feared hitters in baseball? Or is it more likely that Snider like Junior Felix before him will fizzle out and be out of the major leagues by the time he is 26?

    By the way, I don’t mean to criticize the article for the sake of criticism and I do enjoy my daily visits to Jays Journal. Keep up the great work and the crazy speculation!

    • Fan

      I also found the Batista comparison quite irrelevant. It’s hard to predict the future, in the sense that we don’t know or should pretend to know how Snider will adjust to his batting style and the way pitchers are pitching him.
      What we do know is that he’s shown flashes of speed, while being quite the average if not below average outfielder. Without hitting for average or power, Snider will soon be part of Toronto Sun columnist’s Steve Simmon’s ‘And Whatever Happened To…’

    • Steve

      I don’t think the point was to compare the two players and say because Bautista followed this path so will Snider. I think he’s merely saying it’s too soon to give up on Snider. As for comparing Snider to Junior Felix – not a bad comparison. Snider has tremendous potential as did Junior Felix. Unfortunately for Felix, his problems were in his head and his work ethic. Sometimes great talents don’t work out.

  • Ron Movat

    Well written article. Hopefully Travis starts to heat up soon.

  • George

    Both Snider and Bombista are seeing a lot of offspeed stuff right now, but the big difference is that JB is laying off the pitches out of the zone. Sooner or later, they hang one up in his wheelhouse, and he crushes it. I have been waiting for 2 years now for Travis to stop swinging at bad pitches, and as soon as he does that, he will see better pitches to hit. Right now, they could throw it into the dugout and he would swing at it.
    That’s where the similarity ends. Nobody can turn on an inside fastball like JB, and that’s not Snider’s cup of tea. Once Travis figures himself out, and develops the patience to wait for his pitch, his OBP will start to go up, and his average and power numbers should follow.
    A trip to AAA won’t help at this point either. He has proven that he can hit minor league pitching pretty well, so he has nothing left to learn there. His job at this point is to figure out how to hit major league pitching, where they can actually throw breaking stuff that fools people, and he can only do that by staying up with The Jays.

  • Mylegacy

    My 2 cents worth.

    1) Snider is lost at the plate. He sits there and watches 92 mph fastballs go by on the first pitch or get me over curves that could be launched – then swings at change ups and curve balls that are OBVIOUSLY way too far outside or inside.

    2) He is 23 years old – let me say it this way – he is twenty three years old! Younger than Thames who turns 25 later this year in November. Some guys NEVER learn to hit breaking stuff. Will Snider – who knows. However, I say forget the kid – leave him alone – bat him 7th or 8th for till at least the All-Star break and just let him keep working. He’s got a good work ethic and with Bautista, Lind and the coaching staff I think he’s enough mentors to help him make the leap to all round success – IF he is ever going to capable of doing it.

    3) He IS capable of doing it!

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