Widely considered one of the best hitter available in the 2006 Amateur Draft, Travis Snider was taken 14th overall and signed in the following days.
He took the Appalachian League by storm, hitting .325/.412/.567, with twenty-four of his sixty-three hits going for extra bases. That performance earned him three awards: Appalachian League Player of the Year, Rookie League Player of the Year and Rookie League All-Star Outfielder.
Understandably, he skipped the short-season in Auburn with the Doubledays the following year and took his powerful swing to Lansing, where he recorded a .902 OPS, despite injuring his thumb in the middle of May and sapping much of his power, but not for long. August came and the power reappeared, putting up a .617 slugging average during that month.
Are these numbers alone enough to justify such a quick promotion to a level players generally refer to as the most difficult transition in their minor league adventure? No.
What separates the young athlete from the rest is the approach he brings at the plate and also his makeup that is truly off the chart. You simply have to read the discussion I had and published a month ago on Inside the Dome, “Snider Shooting for the Stars”, to clearly see the man performs at a level not usually seen by players his age.
Baseball teams generally look for the following things, among others, when judging a player’s progress in their farm system:
• The ability to use the whole field
• Be able to hit adequately both right-handed and left-handed pitchers
• How does a player deal with adversity
With these parameters in mind, let’s analyze how he fared.
• He finished the year with batting averages against both RHP and LHP at or over .311 and a propensity to hit for power against both kinds of adversaries.
• The Washington state native experienced his first slump as a professional last June when he struck out thirty-one times and hit safely on twenty-one occasion. He answered by posting ten hits in the first ten days of July and a subsequent seven-game hitting streak where he went 12-for-29.
In my book, that’s a strong response to tough criteria’s players have to adhere to.
Let’s push the analysis further and compare him with a player that was drafted the year before at the same age and shows the same strengths attributed to the young Snider and also hits from the left side.
OF Jay Bruce, 20, a top prospect from the Cincinnati organization and widely considered a future all-star at the major league level, played in the Gulf Coast League (Rookie league) in his first year after being chosen out of high school in the first round of the 2005 Amateur Draft.
The following year, he performed in the Midwest League, the same league that hosts the Lansing Lugnuts, Snider’s home in 2007, where Bruce had the following batting line: .291/.355/.516. Last season, the Cincinnati farmhand tore up the pitcher friendly Florida State League (the same league where the Dunedin Blue Jays compete) during 268 at-bats, was promoted to double-A and convinced the front office to promote him again to the top level, triple-A, after only 66 at-bats. He finished the year with a combined batting line of .319/.375/.587, with an OPS over .900 every step of the way.
The reason I took the time to compare both players is that they are very much alike in many ways: they will both record their fair share of strike outs, but without sacrificing their batting average that will roam around .300 and their on-base presence, and hit for a lot of power to all fields while handling pitches from whoever is facing them on the mound. They also both clearly show the potential to be major producers for their respective teams in the future.
The Florida State League, where Snider is expected to begin the 2008 campaign is widely known to be a pitcher’s league, in part because of the major league park dimensions, and I wonder what good would come out of a trip in that league.
The pros of sending him to New Hampshire range from offering the mature youngster a challenge he can handle, as shown by his impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League against better and older competition, to the more mundane argument that the front office personnel would be a short trip away to monitor his progress and offer guidance, something that’s a harder to do when separated by six states and more than 1300 miles.
While there would be no fault in sending him to high-A to begin next season, my vote and hope goes for a Double-A trip next April and a chance to see him in Toronto sooner rather than later.