The Toronto Blue Jays have needed an injection of some life into their offense as of late; there is no denying such a fact. The team currently sits 15th in the majors in runs scored, 11th in OPS and are one of the worst teams in the game when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position.
Something has had to give for quite some time now, and it seems that things are trending in the right direction. A source told Jays Journal Thursday evening that the club planned to select utilityman Davis Schneider to the big league club. On Friday, the team took to their Twitter account to confirm that this was indeed coming to fruition and Schneider would be with the club to kick off their series against the Red Sox.
This is a huge move made by the Jays to bring some thump back into their lineup. Schneider, 24, has 21 home runs in just 87 Triple-A games this season, hitting .275 with a .969 OPS and a BB/K rate of 0.84, which is .14 points higher than he had last season. The young gun out of New Jersey is having a monstrous season and will certainly be an asset to the Jays at the game's highest level. This was not always the case, though. Schneider began his pro career in 2017 but wasn't able to take an everyday starting position and run with it until 2022. He had been demoted a few times prior and did not appear to be a prospect worth monitoring until last year when his numbers began to improve across the board.
We caught up with Mike Alberts, the man responsible for drafting Schneider back in 2017. Alberts served as a scout at both the pro and amateur levels for two decades, spending time with the Montreal Expos (later the Washington Nationals) and the Blue Jays. Notably, he was instrumental in the Nationals drafting a young man by the name of Marcus Stroman, who didn't sign and ultimately wound up a first-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2012. Nowadays, Alberts runs Premium Baseball Advancement, a program that provides young players assistance throughout the player development and recruiting processes.
"One thing the Blue Jays excelled at when I was there was the scouting. They always emphasized that we needed to get to know the people, not just the players. Dana [Brown, former Blue Jays executive and current Astros GM] always wanted us to get to know all of these guys and their families. He had the best advice, 'if you get the person right, you get the player right'", he recalls.
At the time of Schneider being drafted, he was a high schooler with a strong bat and no premier position on defense. "In player development, you see endless amounts of catchers, shortstops and center fielders because those guys can still have value even if they don't hit. A backup shortstop, defense-first center fielder, it's usually a safer bet to have something to fall back on if you don't hit."
"As a scout, it can be tough to stick with a player who only has a bat. There's nothing to fall back on.", Alberts says. After seeing Schneider win MVP at a wood-bat tournament in Jupiter, Florida, Alberts knew this was someone he had to keep an eye on. However, without that 'important' defensive position, the odds weren't high that Schneider, strictly a third baseman at the time, would be selected in the first 10 or so rounds of the upcoming draft.
Alberts recalls conversations early on with Schneider where he made it clear to the youngster that he was not going to be a top-of-the-draft type of player, but the interest was most definitely there. Through their talks, Schneider made it clear to him that if the Blue Jays selected him, he'd sign. Money was not an issue, he just wanted to play pro baseball, and that has stuck with Alberts still to this day.
"I stumbled into Davis's living room and he was so enamored with pro baseball. The thing I picked up first was the relationship he had with his dad. They were a couple of massive Phillies fans and I could immediately tell that this was a true baseball family. I told Davis, 'if we take you, it may not be for a lot of money and it may not be in one of the higher rounds', and he just kept saying 'no matter where you take me, I intend to sign', because he knew that this was his dream and that this is where he was meant to be", Alberts says. Schneider was committed to Rutgers at the time but was fully prepared to chase his dream with the Blue Jays. "You ask a guy, 'what's your biggest fear throughout this process?', Davis answered immediately and said, 'I know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I don't want to go to college just to spend the rest of my life wondering what could've been had I pursued my dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player', and that was just a great answer."
"His face just lit up when we talked about playing professional baseball. I knew he was meant to be here", continues Alberts. Sure enough, the Blue Jays selected Schneider in the 2017 MLB Draft but not until the 28th round. To put that into perspective, the 28th round does not even exist in today's version of the MLB Draft.
Alberts goes on, saying, "I told him from the beginning that grinding through the minor leagues was not going to be easy. You get a lot of dirt kicked in your face and you're going to fail more than you're going to succeed at first, and that turned out to be true for Davis as well. What makes him special is that even while he was getting dirt kicked in his face, he never had a bad day in the minors. Regardless of his numbers on the field or his team's record, he never complained once and truly enjoyed the opportunity." Through all of the times Schneider wasn't getting enough playing time, he quietly went about his business and did what he could to earn the additional playing time.
"I'll say this", says Alberts. "You don't stick around as long as Davis did in the minor leagues and not a whole lot of playing time without being one of the best guys in the clubhouse. Everyone was rooting for him and he was a favorite of the coaches. Starter, bench bat, mop-up reliever, he put in the work to earn his place on these rosters and every single person there knew it."
Now living in the Boston area, the circumstances could not have been better for both Alberts and Schneider. With the Blue Jays meeting the Red Sox in Boston starting Friday evening, the long-time scout and his father are going to make the short commute over to Fenway where they will meet Schneider and his own father to share a special moment in the utilityman's playing career, as he could potentially make his major league debut as early as Friday night. Everything has come full circle for Alberts, which is the very best part of his former job. He says that Schneider is the last player that he drafted with the Blue Jays and to see him making the big leagues after a 28th-round selection is something special.
For Schneider, the fit on the Blue Jays is an obvious one. While he could steal playing time away from bench bats like Santiago Espinal or Cavan Biggio thanks to his versatility and offensive prowess, he may not become an every day starter, but his ability to play the outfield could cut into some playing time for someone like Daulton Varsho, who has had a hard time getting going in his first season in Toronto. Even if Schneider is up just to fill an Ernie Clement-Nathan Lukes role of "26th man" on the roster, that's not too shabby for a player that was selected in a round that doesn't even exist anymore in the MLB Draft.
Alberts wraps things up with an interesting player comp that almost makes too much sense. "He almost reminds me of a [right-handed] Jeff McNeil-type of player in that people wrote him off because of his lack of power at first, but he's really coming into his own and could really surprise people here soon."
"Nowadays, a player like Davis is exactly what every single team needs more of. He's cheap, he hits for power, bounces around all over the diamond, draws a ton of walks, and steals bases. Everyone loves an underdog story, and I believe he's going to become a fan favorite in Toronto in no time."