Who: Travis Snider, No. 45. Outfielder. 6’2, 235 LBS. 24 years old.
Tao-Approved Nicknames: Lunchbox. The Rosy-Cheeked Phenom. Formerly, The Great Big Giant Pasty White Hope.
History: Four partial MLB seasons and 232 games, All with the Blue Jays.
Contract Status: Agreed to a one-year, $435,800 contract before the 2011 season. Arbitration eligible after this season. Under control through 2015. One minor league option remaining.
Career Stats: .248 AVG, .307 OBP .423 SLG, .730 OPS in 877 plate appearances. 28 home runs, 104 RBI, 16 steals.
2011 Stats: .225 AVG, .269 OBP, .348 SLG, .616 OPS in 202 plate appearances over 49 games played. Three homers, 14 doubles, 30 RBI, nine steals. In 61 games in Las Vegas, Snider posted a .873 OPS with four home runs.
Meaningless Statistical Curiosity: Snider’s OPS+ last season was a painfully low 65. His total bases? Also 65. Weird, though completely meaningless.
Looking Back: Before we indulge your sense of disappointment in the former “Future of the Jays”, let’s start with this fundamental precept that has become clear to us upon further reflection: Travis Snider was mishandled as a minor leaguer, and rushed to the majors.
The Blue Jays were thin on top level talent and had little of immediate consequence when they called Snider to the show in late 2008. As a 20 year-old, Snider acquitted himself well in 80 plate appearances that year, but the question remains as to whether if he would have been better served to take a more deliberate path through the developmental leagues before skipping over levels. The last time Snider played a full season at any level of professional baseball was in 2007, when he spent the entire season in A-ball with the Lansing Lugnuts.
Sure, the argument can be made that Snider played well enough at each subsequent to merit promotion. But his whiplash-inducing ride from Dunedin to New Hampshire to Syracuse to Toronto in 2008 seems in retrospect to have been fuelled by a desire to make the future happen as quickly as possible.
Snider’s comes off as a guy who is pretty tightly wound, and we’re not sure that he was given the opportunity to work on his craft in a deliberate fashion. The result has been failure for which he was not prepared, and tinkering with his game at the major league level, where the games really count and the scrutiny is much greater.
And it’s the scrutiny that’s the key when it comes to Snider. There are very few players who can enter the league and excel at the age of 20 (or 21, or 22), and Jays fans should recognize that the struggles and development to which we’ve been witness should probably have been hidden away in some Podunk minor league ballyard. The notion that Snider is a “disappointment” or a “waste of a pick” (as we’ve heard on more than one occasion) is just flat-out bunk. Give your head a shake.
Looking Forward: At 24, Snider still has plenty of time to find his game.
For several years, we used Alex Gordon as a cautionary example to illustrate why Jays fans shouldn’t get ahead of themselves when projecting Snider’s potential, because even the most revered “can’t miss” propects take time to hit their stride. People kept wondering when Gordon would finally come close to the lofty expectations, especially through 2009 and 2010, two years in which he was bumped back and forth between the Royals and Triple-A. In 2011, Gordon finally broke through with an excellent season at the age of 27, and we hope that we can continue to use Gordon as a more positive example of why Jays fans shouldn’t give up on Snider.
Snider will be in tough to get big league at bats, with Eric Thames, Ben Francisco and Rajai Davis all in the mix for left field playing time. At present, it sounds as though the Jays’ brass is looking to either Thames or Snider to be the starter, with the other presumably setting up shop in Las Vegas, so Travis only has to beat out one guy for the job. How hard could that be?
2012 Expectations: We still expect that Snider might get demoted, possibly to start the season. On the plus side, we’re betting that he gets more playing time in Toronto than Vegas by the year’s end, and that he’ll be productive once he settles in.