By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Travis Snider, Outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays
2011 season: 49 G, 187 AB, .225 BA, 3 HR, 9 SB, .616 OPS
A first-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2006, Snider came up through the ranks with big things expected of him. His minor league career was no disappointment—he owns a career .306 batting average and .901 OPS down on the farm—but his Major League play certainly has been. In 232 big league games over four seasons, the native of Kirkland, Wash. has hit just .248 with a .730 OPS. So what’s happened that’s made him so ineffective in The Show?
The simple answer is that the Major Leagues are much harder than the minor leagues. Even the jump from Triple-A to the bigs can be massive, as was shown by the struggles much-hyped youngsters Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt last year. Compound the higher level of competition with the fact that Snider has never had much of an eye at the plate, and it’s easy to see why the transition to the big time has been rough. The other issue is that Snider has failed to play a full Major League season, never even coming close to 600 at-bats—he topped out at 298 in 2010, when he also set a career high with 82 games. Part of that has been injuries, but the young outfielder has also been shuffled to-and-from the minors regularly over the past few years.
Still, despite those difficulties and Snider’s career-worst numbers in 2011, there is hope for him to contribute in Toronto in the near future. The thing to remember about Snider is that he just turned 24 years old in February. It might seem like he’s been around forever, but that’s only because he was already playing in the Major Leagues when he was 20. Very few people succeed in the Majors at that age, unless their name is Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez or Justin Upton.
At this point, it’s hard to see Snider becoming that type of superstar, but he can still develop into a player that bats .300 and hits 20 or more home runs. Combine that offense with above-average defense in a corner outfield spot (though Snider might DH this year, given the Blue Jays’ overflow of outfielders) and Snider could be an important cog for a Toronto team that is gaining momentum as a playoff contender in the American League. One doesn’t have to look far for other highly touted prospects who failed initially before finding their way: Alex Gordon and Rickie Weeks both experienced heavy struggles during their first few years in the Majors, but last year, Gordon set career highs in almost every offensive category and Weeks was an All-Star. Snider is too young to write off—there’s a quality bat in there, and given the opportunity, it might finally break out.
Next up on March 6: Baltimore Orioles