Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Expectations Clash on Travis Snider

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Meats don't clash; it's the meme so famously connected to the player on the Blue Jays roster who is an admitted meat aficionado, Travis Snider. Over the years, we've come to discover his love for all things beef, pork, chicken, and even giraffe.

While all those delicious and succulent meats don't clash on one single plate, there is one thing that does clash; expectations for Travis Snider. Some view him as a stud outfielder with 30+ home run pop, and others see Snider as a dime a dozen outfielder.

Gregg Zaun reiterated multiple times during the season that it's sink or swim time for Travis Snider, and I couldn't agree more. The Blue Jays are long overdue to find out whether they have a legitimate stud on their hands, or just another outfielder.

And much like Zaun, I really didn't notice anything different with Snider's swing after he was called back up from Las Vegas in early July. If anything, they might have tweaked his swing slightly, but did it warrant a trip to the minors?

Isn't that something that could've been done with work from Dwayne Murphy and a little extra batting practice? I don't doubt there was some part of Snider's swing that needed work, but it's not like he looked like a kid swinging blindly at a pinata.

There was something fishy about Snider's demotion back then, and there's still something suspect about it now. And just in case there wasn't enough doubt planted in everyone's heads, the Blue Jays sent him back down again at the beginning of August.

Even though it feels like Travis Snider has spent a great deal of time with the club over the years, he's actually only accumulated just over one year of service time. If it feels like the Travis Snider Experiment has been a work in progress, it's because it has.

2012 will mark the fifth season that Travis has spent with the team, and yet amazingly he'll only be 24 years old when Spring Training camp kicks off. Just as a comparison, Eric Thames is a player who is at a similar point in his career, and he's soon to be 25 years old.

Despite Snider's young age and low service time, it still feels like we're nowhere closer to finding out where the Blue Jays stand with him.

By all indications, 2011 was going to be the year where we would find out if Travis Snider was going to sink or swim. It seemed like Alex Anthopoulos and John Farrell were ready to back their once highly-touted prospect and were willing to give him a chance to live up to the hype.

Instead, 2011 was another year of confusion and I hate to say it, but regression for Travis Snider. Now there are even more question marks than ever about him, and whether he'll be ready to reclaim a starting position for next season.

The problem now is there is a young crop of players who have elevated their game to Snider's, and even surpassed it. Eric Thames is a perfect example of that, and arguably he has a leg up on the others for the starting left field job.

So to give the reins to Travis Snider for the left field position is almost unfair to Eric Thames. Again, I hate to say it but Thames is way ahead of Snider on the outfield depth chart at this point. Snider may have more upside, but Thames offers more consistency.

But it's hardly all Travis Snider's fault; I think the powers that be were a little guilty of mishandling him this season. It looked like they didn't want to see him fail at the major league level, and instead hid him in the shadows of Las Vegas.

Not that I'm trying to relate developing a baseball player to raising a child, but with both situations I think you have to let them make their own mistakes. Even if that means Snider batting below the Mendoza Line at the All-Star Break, he needs to understand what that feels like in order to make him a better player in the future.

After all, it's not like the Blue Jays were playing for a pennant back in April and May. Better for Snider to work out the kinks now then a few years down the road when they could be in contention and really need to know what they have with Travis Snider.

The funny thing about this whole situation is if Travis Snider were not with the Toronto Blue Jays, he'd be the exact kind of player that Alex Anthopoulos would be gunning for. Snider is a high ceiling player, but a victim of his circumstance. A change of scenery and a change to play every day would no doubt unearth his potential.

And don't think that other GM's aren't thinking the exact same thing about Travis Snider, because I'm sure they'd be willing to trade for him in a heartbeat. Being under team control for just under five more seasons also makes Snider an attractive acquisition.

I think 2012 is the year that the Blue Jays need to decide whether they want to give Travis the reins and let him have an everyday job, or they need to trade him. With so many young talented players in the farm system, the organization has to figure out where Snider is a viable option in the outfield for the immediate future.

And if he doesn't fit into those plans, then it's time to send him to another team and get as much back in return as they can. You can only yo-yo a player around so much before they begin to develop a yearning for a change of scenery.

10 comments:

  1. I go back and forth on Snider, however there was a point during this past season that I stated to a friend that I'm just about ready to give up on him. I understand that he is young, and has all the potential in the world, however he just looks really bad at the plate and consistently being not even close on a lot of pitches. Also I'm not sure where his power went last year.

    As for what I would do with him, I think that depends on what the Jays look like as a team going into the season. For instance if they go out and sign Albert Pujols, Yu Darvish, etc. and really look like a serious competitor, then Snider probably has no place on this team as the time for development has passed.

    However, the more likely scenario involves the Jays not making many significant moves this off season, and still being a year away from becoming a serious threat. If this is the case, give Snider another shot at regular playing time. Although I don't think his playing time should be at the expense of Thames, I'd like to see both play regularly, maybe in some sort of 4 way rotation involving Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, Thames and Snider, where they all play 3 out of every 4 games, then hope that 3 of these guys step up and show they belong playing every day.

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  2. Peter, I've been thinking about the same 4-players-for-3-positions rotation you mention above for a while, and I think it makes a ton of sense for 2012.

    Of course, when an inevitable injury happens, they'll all get to play a bit more as well.

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  3. Peter, I've wavered back and forth as well on the Snider issue. It's especially confusing because there has been times where Snider has looked phenomenal at the plate, and then others where he looks totally lost. Hopefully he can land somewhere in the middle.

    Sporkless, I think 1 Blue Jays Way suggested this, but perhaps a platoon of Snider and Thames in left field might be a good idea? Like you mentioned, if anyone suffers an injury that opens the door of opportunity, so anything is possible.

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  4. It may be sink or swim for Snider as a Blue Jay but not for his career. As we saw with Alex Gordon, Matt Weiter and Cameron Maybin this last season, top rated prospects shouldn't be dismissed because they aren't the early bloomers we hope them to be and Snider is younger and has less major league experience than any of those guys. If Snider falters this year, it's hardly the last word on him but it's probably means the end of his opportunities with the Blue Jays. With the kind of OF depth coming up in the system, I don't think it would hurt the team long term to sell high on Thames this off season and clear the path for a possible breakout for Snider. If Snider falters than he probably gets leaped over by Marisnik but at least the team will have finally given Snider the kind of opportunity his talent commands.

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  5. I strongly disagree with "it's not like he looked like a kid swinging blindly at a pinata.". He did. Curveball in the dirt? Flail at it. Fastball at the eyes? Flail at it.

    What Snider then did not do was rake at AAA. I don't get the notion that the fix could've come from "Dwayne Murphy and a little extra batting practice". I would suspect they've been doing that since Travis reported in Spring training. At the same time, you're also discarding the coaching at AAA.

    Also, had Snider failed all year in Toronto this year, then what? Would you discard him then because you haven't seen him all year? I don't think so - you'd still call him a shiny prospect that he is.

    The fact is, and AA said it too, that Thames outplayed Snider this year and earned the Jays' LF starting time. Snider had an option, so it was used. Would you suggest we then hold down players in the minors that may out-perform our major leaguers?

    There's no need to give up on Snider yet, but we shouldn't fault what was "done to him" this year on the Jays.

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  6. King_Cat, from the outside looking in, it seemed like the Royals were all but ready to give up on Alex Gordon, and low and behold he blossomed into a great player this year. I'm hoping the same happens with Snider.

    I wouldn't be opposed to selling high on Eric Thames either. Use him to acquire a high ceiling starter that would compliment Romero or Morrow, but trading Snider now would be selling low.

    Steve, those are all fair points. I just didn't understand why they sent Snider down when it just looked like they tweaked his swing ever so slightly. I can warrant that if they completely overhauled his stance, approach, etc, but it looked nearly identical to the one he had at the start of the season.

    Thames was the better man this year, no question. I just think the Blue Jays didn't give Travis enough of a chance to see what he could do during the course of a full season.

    I think the onus lies partially on the organization, partially on Snider. If he played better, he would've stuck with the team. But they need to give him that opportunity first and foremost before sending him to Las Vegas.

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  7. Trading Snider now is selling low, sure--but there's no way his value can go back up unless the Jays are prepared to play him all season at the MLB level.

    If they aren't, they should move him and give Thames the chance to win the starting LF job long-term.

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  8. Jeff, unless they want to platoon Snider & Thames (which would almost be a disservice to those guys), I think one of them will be on the trading block - more likely Thames.

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  9. While I think you're correct that the organization is still far from sure about where Travis Snider stands with them, I think that a majority of the published views on Travis either miss or understate the importance of several very key factors.

    One is that while he has been with the organization for some time, he was drafted very young and is still about 2 years younger than Eric Thames. Nobody was very high on Eric Thames 2 years ago, and while that's partially because Eric missed some time to serious injury, so has Travis. Travis's talent is still very much in development, and I think he needs more time.

    Two, Travis is already a very finished product in terms of his fielding and baserunning. In fact, I think he could be Oakland's starting centrefielder and not be a downgrade. In this respect, he is well over a year ahead of Thames' development, and he doesn't get enough credit for that.

    Three, Travis's struggles have centred around two very specific issues with his hitting: strike zone discipline (breaking balls down and in and the high-inside heat) and problems hitting the breaking balls.

    The change to Travis's hitting mechanics (opening his stance to face the pitcher more) was supposed to help him see breaking pitches better, particularly from lefties. The problem was that he kept swinging at balls outside of the strike zone.

    Like Cito Gaston started telling Travis from day 1, he will only start achieving success when he can come to the plate with a plan and sit on one pitch until he gets it. That message sunk in with Bautista almost immediately, but it's taken Travis a couple of years and he's still trying to hit everything in sight. But once he does develop a better approach at the plate, I still think Travis can be a fantastic hitter, and I hope that this is the year he figures it out.

    Finally, if you're looking for a player with a similar development arc to Travis, look no further than Carlos Delgado. He had similar potential and similar problems. If Travis follows the same career arc, he'll be demoted one more time this year, then come back strong in the summer and have a breakout year in 2013. Let's hope that turns out to be the plot for Travis's story.

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  10. 0noggin, thanks for the comment. Lots of insightful stuff here.

    If I had to assemble the outfield depth chart today, I'd likely put Thames slightly ahead of Snider, but that's not to say Travis isn't the better of the two. That's mostly just because Thames had a larger body of work in 2012 than Snider.

    Both guys have some work to do, but like you said ... Snider is the more polished player. Travis still has a ton of upside and much more potential I feel than Eric does. I just hope the Blue Jays stick with Travis and give him the opportunity he deserves, rather than jerk him around between the majors and minors.

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