This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Report on Travis Snider
Right now it looks like Travis Snider will open 2009 with a regular job in the Toronto outfield, making him a leading Rookie of the Year candidate.
Travis Snider was drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round in 2006, out of high school in Mill Creek, Washington. The 14th overall pick, Snider was considered one of the best high school hitters in the draft, possibly the best overall, but fell to the middle of the first round due to other considerations. He's done nothing but mash the ball as a pro, reaching the major leagues just two years after being drafted, and pushing his way into a major league job with just 116 games of Double-A and Triple-A under his belt.
TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT
Snider is 5-11, 245 pounds, a left-handed hitter and thrower, born February 2, 1988. Despite his short, stocky body, he's actually a fairly decent athlete, though he'll have to work hard to stay in shape as he gets older. His best physical attribute is simple strength. He has a decent arm, but his outfield range is just average, and could end up as below average if he loses too much flexibility.
Snider has a very quick bat, with plus bat speed. He handles both fastballs and breaking balls well, showing power to all fields. He strikes out a lot, but scouts don't rate him as an excessively free swinger: he will work the count at times and understands how pitchers try to work him. He mashes right-handed pitching, but left-handers have success against him when he gets too impatient. His strike zone judgment is erratic: at times he is very patient, but he will go through stretches of over-aggressiveness. Again, he's aware of this, and so far it is hard to see how it has negatively impacted his performance, except against lefties. His speed is average to below average and he'll never be a major threat on the bases.
Scouts love his personality and work ethic, and he's considered a potential clubhouse leader once he matures and gains more experience. While he isn't a classic Five-Tool athlete, Snider's offensive skills are so strong that virtually all scouts project him as a middle-of-the-order force.
Snider is a career .299/.375/.513 hitter in the minors. He hit .301/.338/.466 in a 24-game trial in the majors last fall, and his spring training performance so far (.380/.392/.720) does nothing to add any doubts about his bat. He has two main sabermetric flaws: problems against lefties (.233/.295/.310 in the high minors last year), and a high strikeout rate, whiffing 132 times in 426 at-bats in the minors last year. He also drew 56 walks, but given the high strikeout rate, it remains to be seen if the .300+ batting average can hold up over a full season. Even this spring, he has a 1-11 BB:K ratio in 50 at-bats, not a ratio normally associated with a.380 batting average. Snider has such good bat speed that he makes hard contact even on pitches he probably shouldn't swing at, and perhaps he can be the kind of hitter who posts consistently excellent BABIP marks even with a high strikeout rate. But it's something to be aware of, and in the short run, he might be more of a .250-.260 hitter, albeit with enough power to keep himself in the lineup.
FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE
Snider should be a regular outfielder for a long time to come. Although I am concerned that he could use more minor league experience to refine his plate discipline and polish his skills against lefties, it's also possible that he has nothing left to learn against minor league pitchers and simply needs to work out his problems against major league pitching. In the medium and long runs, Snider is an excellent investment. In the short run, just looking at 2009, he could be anything from a Rookie of the Year, .300 with 20+ homers monster, to a guy who hits .180 through June and gets sent to the minors for a refresher course. He's high risk/high reward in the short run, but should pan out as very good-to-excellent beyond that.
For full reports on Snider and over 1,000 others, pre-order the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book, available only at Johnsickels.net. Now Shipping!
Article first appeared 4/2/09