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The plummeting Rob-Ford’s-popularity-like line on the graph above doesn’t really do justice to Eric Thames. He is certainly not playing himself out of a job in the Jays outfield at the moment, but such wonky lines are only natural the world of completely unscientific graph-making. Especially when Thames’ competition, Travis Snider, is sizzling, pretty much killing it against left-handers this spring, and needing to be moved up on our little chart.

Now, Snider’s troubles at the big league level have never been defined entirely by his inability to hit lefties. True, his .574 career OPS in the meagre 171 plate appearances he’s been deigned to take against them (thanks, Cito!) has been pretty awful. But he’s had trouble hitting just about everyone, and trouble adjusting back, after teams found ways to neutralize him after early-stint success just about every time he’s been called up to the Jays.

He’s still a long way from having won the race for the Opening Day spot in left field, but hitting a hard, off-the-wall, two-run double off genuine Major League lefty Francisco Liriano of the Twins– which Snider did today, following his three straight games with a home run at the end of last week, including two against left-handers, and a 1-for-2 day with a walk and an off-the-wall RBI single (that only was such because Rasmus was on first, waiting to tag) in between– is a pretty good start.

His stats are, of course, less consequential than the fact that he’s been hitting the ball hard. The two walks may not jump out at you, and he may be striking out a lot– three more today, to make it seven in his first eight spring games– but that’s kind of just the way he is, and if you’re swinging well enough to have gone into today’s game with a 1.223 OPS, something is obviously going right.

That said, we all remember Jason Lane and Gabe Gross and the like, so we need to keep this in perspective. But their stories weren’t quite the same– they weren’t guys who needed to come out and hit the way Snider has, and they weren’t guys who ever had a real shot to steal a starting position from someone. Add in the fact that Snider definitely has the defensive edge, and– if there really is a genuine competition between he and Thames, and the Jays aren’t just paying him lip service– I can’t come to any conclusion but that he’s “taken the lead.”

The Jays, of course, almost certainly don’t view this like a horse race. They’re probably more inclined to wait until closer to the end of camp, and evaluate the totality of the performance from Thames and Snider, both in Dunedin and last year– which, honestly, is the prudent way to go about it.

So… for now, we wait. But in the meantime, we get giddy over the stuff we’re hearing about Snider, and the possibility that he may finally be on the verge of tapping into the massive potential he showed when he rocketed through the minors past all but only the most elite of his age-level peers.

“Snider said that he has changed his approach against southpaws, but he wouldn’t tell us how just in case there were prying eyes and ears about reading these things,” Mike Wilner wrote on his blog for the Fan 590 after Saturday’s game. “He was equally happy, by the way, about drawing his first walk of the spring, because he took a strike in the plate appearance while he was ahead in the count.  A problem in the past has been that Snider would swing at a strike, rather than his strike, if he was ahead in the count, and that would get him into trouble.”

“I know it’s only spring training, but what he’s doing against left-handers is pretty impressive,” said manager John Farrell, according to the Toronto Sun. “He’s picking out the right pitch and putting good swings on it.”

“What has impressed Alex Anthopoulos (who is, by the way, determined not to give in to the seduction of spring training statistics in evaluating performance) is that Snider has divorced himself somewhat from the competition for the starting job in left field against Eric Thames,” Ken Fidlin adds in the piece.

“A lot of guys talk about not letting things they can’t control get to them, but most aren’t being honest,” said the GM. “In Travis’ case, I believe that’s exactly what he’s doing: Concentrating on what will make him more successful.”

Snider is, “he says, ‘hunting’ in one particular zone,” according to Jeff Blair in Sunday’s Globe and Mail, “while trying to see as many off-speed pitches as possible. ‘You see that with lefties against lefties,’ Farrell said. ‘Go get the first-pitch fastball at some point. It’s a sign of a maturing hitter.’ ”

He is also “focusing on quieting his hands, seeing the ball deeper into the strike zone and ‘not pulling off’ breaking pitches,” says Kevin Gray at Gray Matter, reporting on a 10-minute chat with the player.

“In the past, I’ve had a lot move movement,” Snider told Gray. “I’ve started simplifying things with my hands and my ‘gather’ or ‘load.’ There are different ways to describe it, but it’s all about making sure I’m on time to recognize the pitch, make the proper adjustment if necessary and hit the baseball.”

“I started off mechanically great and fell off and got into some bad habits,” Snider says of the troubles that started for him in 2009. “Ever since then, it’s been a matter of trying to figure out what’s going to work for the long term instead of trying to find a Band-Aid to fix it. The biggest difference, I’d say, is where I start my hands and simplifying the movement and not having so much room to travel with my hands and getting into slot … I’m working on waiting back on off-speed (pitches) without completely pulling off the baseball.”

And let’s not discount the fact that Snider was hampered by wrist troubles both in July of 2010 and September of 2011, according to his Baseball Prospectus page, and perhaps the entire time in between– he went from 23 home runs in 125 games in 2009, to 19 in 107 in 2010, to just seven in 110 last year.

“When you have a bad wrist, you can swing but it’s not going to be the same. You’re not going to have the same power, you’re not going to have the same timing,” says teammate Edwin Encarnacion, no stranger to wrist troubles, according to Larry Millson of the Canadian Press. “Nothing is going to be the same.”

All those words sound just about exactly fucking right, to me.  Am I crazy for actually being hopeful that this really is Snider’s time? At this point, yes. But, fuck it if I’m not.

Comments (58)

  1. We’re all fucking crazy this time of year. I’ve actually justified in my head a scenario that has the Blue Jays winning 96 games this year. Spring training is about the high expectations that will probably be dashed by mid July.

  2. I don’t get the whole “options” system, but I am pretty sure Wilner mentioned that Snider had only 1 more “option” left to send him back to AAA.

    If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make sense to start him in the majors and at least give him a shot to succeed at that level, rather than bringing him up later in the year? It just seems like kind of a waste to me to use his final option without at least giving him a chance to succeed in the majors…

    • The option think actually means option years. They can call him up and send him down as many times as they want during the year and only burn one.

      • Indeed. And let’s be frank, if he needs to be optioned down this year, and still can’t make the team next year and has to go to the minors, it’s probably time to let another organization try its hand with him anyway.

      • Ah… I thought I had head Wilner explain it differently once…

    • An option is actually an unlimited ability to move a player between the minors and the majors during a season without having to go through waivers, hence it often being termed an “option year”.

      • Not to be too confusing and not to put too fine a point on this but an “Option Year” can also refer to a players contract, at the end of which either the club or the player can have an additional “option year” written in. If the club (or player) exercises this option, the player will play another year at a pre-determined amount of salary.

  3. That’s not how options work. You have option years, meaning for the entire season Snider can pass up and down between AAA and the majors without having to clear waivers.

  4. I’m actually going to use my first hockey reference while talking baseball ever. Snider is a lot like Nazem Kadri to me. Guys drafted early with lofty expectations who were probably played to early. They should have been subject to a long stint in the minors before getting called up and once they were called up should have stayed up in order to work on their problems against top tier competition while on a team that had no chance of winning anything meaningful. However, when they were brought up the coaches in both situations handled them very poorly and ruined their confidence. They both have a lot of potential still but the fans are giving up way to quickly on them because they expect a saviour to end their playoff droughts and bring them to the glory land. I think that both clubs should give them a full season and if they don’t accomplish anything than try and package them for something of substance, otherwise they’ll flame out or go to another team where they will succeed and burn us in the future. What is it with Toronto teams and developing prospects?

    • You probably shouldn’t say that Toronto is bad at developing prospects because we are all clinging to the Jays farm system…

      But I see what you’re saying doe.

    • Nice thought for Leafs fans, but I don’t think the 7th overall pick in an NHL draft is anywhere near a comparable elite level prospect to a guy who was 6th and 11th on BA’s Top 100, at times ahead of guys like Bumgarner, Stanton, Wieters, Ellsbury, Votto and McCutcheon.

      I’m just spitballin’ here, and maybe totally biased against the Leafs, but just because of the sheer number of MLB prospects, I don’t think you can compare a top 10 MLB guy with an NHL top ten guy. And I just don’t see Kadri as having ever being anywhere close to the eliteness level of Snider, who on the 2008 and ’09 lists was ahead of six potentially MVP/Cy-calibre talents (or better).

      Granted the development curve is different in the two sports, so I’m sure this is a ridiculous path to be going down, when all I really want to say is, come on now, Kadri just ain’t that good.

      • I have said it once, and I will say it again. Talk of potential because of Baseball America Rankings is useless. Corey Patterson, was once a 5 tool prospect who was rated #1 at one time want to trade for Patterson again?

        • Now? No.

          When he was 24? Probably.

          Statements like that are real easy to make in hindsight.

          That others have failed doesn’t mean that any one “high level” prospect will too, and those types of guys whould be given every chance to succeed prior to giving up on them.

        • What a ridiculous statement. Yes, BA rankings aren’t the be-all end-all, but Corey Patterson will be 33 in August. Do you understand how much time he was given before being written off? Snider is 24.

          Oh, but enjoy your little piss party.

          • my comment isn’t simply to be a dick, its trying to attack the fanboy side that goes, snider was number 7 in Baseball America he is the next coming. Lets face it what Snider has shown the potential to be great when he is hot, but then next month fall of a cliff. Snider is the antithesis of Edwin Encarnacion, who last season started cold then got hot. Snider starts hot they dive bombs. If you look at the comments about Snider in 2010 and 2011 from the coaches and AA its not about his potential but about his lack of ability to take instruction. It is funny because he parallels Rasmus alot, but after 1/4 season with the jays where he was injured most Jays fans were willing to give up on Rasmus, but kept the faith on snider. For Snider to continue to do well he needs to be able to adjust to plitchers adjusting to him and b after a month not fall back in to old habbits like he did nin 2009 and 2010. Being sent down does not mean the jays have given up on him. Dont forget when Halladay was 23 and was sent down to A ball after throwing a 9 inning 1 hitter at the age of 21. Sometimes a player needs a swift kick in the ass to lose the sense of entitlement. And in reality I think that is what the Jays have been trying with Snider, remove his sense, of I deserve starting left field in the majors to having to try to earn his place on the team.

    • I really don’t want to get into hockey on a baseball site…but take a look at Brian Burke’s record of drafting AND the development of the players he drafted WHILE he was GM of said team. It’s pretty scary to look at the production he received from the Sedins, Bryan Allen (I believe), Bobby Ryan etc.

      He’s a win-now GM and it would have been refreshing if he admitted the Kessel debaucle was, in large part, because he has never been able to develop his own draft picks. And he’s had a quite a few high ones.

      In conclusion, other than the fact Burke and Anthopolous are both GMs of Toronto-based teams, there isn’t a whole lot of similarity.

  5. So let’s say Snider continues his hot spring, impresses the shit out of AA and Farrell, and takes the LF job. What becomes of Thames?

    Keep him on the DH? That doesn’t make sense since he won’t get his at-bats.

    Option him back down to AAA?

    Share DH time with EE?

    Or look to trade him? I can’t begin to guess what the Jays can get for him.

    • Triple-A.

      Teams just don’t play with the Opening Day roster for six months straight. There will be injuries and underperformance that Thames can step in and help alleviate– and that’s especially important when he’s behind a guy known for his injuries and underperformances.

  6. Michael Garncarz: Thames could probably get a lot. Maybe a #2 pitcher and a solid prospect.

  7. What is the difference in value between Jesus of Seattle and Travis Snider? Are they comparable? Would moving Snider for a legit young arm be that fucking ridiculous? What the fuck is wrong with having Thames getting a chance to improve and potentially becoming a solid, consistent bat? Would there be anything close to the Jesus/Pineda deal that could be made. How far off fucking base is this potential situation?

    • Comparing Snider and Montero right now is about as ludicrous as the guy suggesting that Thames could bring back a #2 starter and prospect. Well, maybe not that bad, but still pretty crazy.

      Snider’s at was never as highly regarded as Montero’s bat. Almost, but not quite. But the big difference is that the shine is gone from Snider because he has legitimately been TERRIBLE for about 2.5 years now. Montero is one of best prospects in baseball.

      To all the people suggesting crazy, homer, trades; if AA could move either Snider or Thames for Gavin Floyd, they would be gone in a heartbeat. it would solve 2 of AA’s problems in 1 deal. But they don’t have that kind of value so please stop suggesting crazier trades than that. Save yourself some keystrokes, use that fake trade as a baseline, and do some critical thinking.

      • Would Gavin Floyd be a straight up fair deal? How close are their values? I’m “critically thinking” that a player like Snider could fetch a similar type of deal, as in bat for arm. Not quite the same caliber of hype that Pineda has, but something similar. Would it be fucking ridiculous to think there is an option there?

      • ” the shine is gone from Snider because he has legitimately been TERRIBLE for about 2.5 years now”

        That’s a funny statement.

        I’m curious to know what you thought of Thames’ year last year.

        In 2011, Thames posted a .333 w OBA and 0.9 fWAR. In 2010, Snider posted a .331 wOBA and 1.2 fWAR.

  8. Staying back on the ball is frickin’ hard to do. Making adjustments takes time to adapt to and get comfortable in. His swing was so bad looking last year, he should have just started a completely new swing from the beginning.

    Just working on a simple grip and way to hold his bat. Simple weight transfer to stay back on the ball and explosive hip rotation. Getting all of these things timed together to create bat speed and power is a mother though.

    • I know it’s only spring training, but it’s at least encouraging to see Snider’s power is back. Even with all the strikeouts the power (and resulting high BABIP) was never in question until last year. Something to cling to.

      • Take it with a grain of salt. I want to see Snider succeed as much as anyone, but he needs to take that next step to consistency. Over and over, we’ve seen a hot month or so, only to see him completely fall off a cliff.

  9. Here’s a thought.

    How scary is the Jays lineup if Snider becomes a legit #4 hitter for them this year?

    I know it’s early, but it’s fun to think about.

    I wonder if he can play 1B?

  10. i want snider to get the job & succeed sooooooo bad. If him & rasmus put it together this year and we just get decent years out of alvarez/mcgowan/cecil we could be playoff bound with that 2nd wildcard. More importantly, the future would look that much brighter having snider in LF doing what we all hoped he would 1 day in the bigs.

    also, another year of seasoning for gose woudln’t be such a bad thing; a couple of years to work on the swing at AAA could help produce big results when he does finally get to the big league club.

  11. The fact he’s not giving out any info as to exactly what he’s doing tells us he’s taken at least one step. He’s recognizing the fact that pitchers are always looking for weaknesses and he’s not about to help them out this time.

  12. Keith Law said recently that AA is a value whore, or words to that effect.

    To maximize the value of both Thames and Snider, AA would have to send Snider to AAA and gamble that Thames can improve upon his offensive numbers from last year at the MLB level. It is well known that Snider has the highest ceiling so seeing him work on his swing change and OBP skills in AAA would not diminish his value any further.

    Then, as the team progresses towards the trade deadline season, and assuming that Thames has gained enough offensive momentum, you package Thames for some pitching and call up Snider to take over LF. That would be plan A.

    Plan B would be to see Snider rake crazy numbers in AAA with Thames doing the job with the big club. If AA decides to roll with Thames, then you package Snider. He’s got the higher ceiling in principle right? AA should be able to get some good value.

    Either way, under Plan A or Plan B, if you reverse the order and Thames is assigned to AAA with Snider getting to the big club, I don’t think you will get maximum value for both players.

    If neither Plan A or Plan B work out, (Thames performing way below expectation), then call up Snider and assign Thames to AAA and start over. While the big club would see a potential upgrade in LF, Thames value at that point would shrivel.

    Either way you cut it, there is no room for both players on the same roster as both need to be playing everyday. And if Gose learns how to hit, then we got ourselves another situation in 2013.

    • Neither of these guys needs to be moved. One will be in AAA, waiting for an injury or other opportunity. Depth isn’t a bad thing, they both have options. Not feeling those scenarios.

  13. Ever since you made that comment about the new blog masthead looking like KFC, I can’t get that image out of my head. It really does. I think it’s diminishing the pleasure I get out of reading the blog. The head is ok.

  14. Dude you sound like a total Travis Snider Fan boy here. I didn’t know you had it in ya.

  15. Isn’t Snider exactly the type of player that AA seeks out in a trade – i.e. high ceiling player whose trade value has taken a bit of a dip due to under-performance with his current team? It seems unlikely to me that AA is looking to deal away snider at this point.

    • This point gets tossed around quite a bit…but unless I’m selectively forgetting someone, AA has never acquired a player like Snider (i.e. a former top prospect who has yet to prove he’s a major league regular).

      The high ceiling guys with major league track records are Escobar, Rasmus & Morrow. Escobar & Rasmus were in the middle of poor seasons coming off of all star calibre seasons. Morrow was simply a guy who never had a chance to be a full time starter, but the stuff was evident in the bullpen.

      The high ceiling minor leaguers are D’arnaud, Drabek, Gose & Lawrie. Each of these players was developing when AA traded for them.

      Snider doesn’t fit in with either group. A guy like Jason Heyward, for example, does fit into the first group.

  16. Annual note to Brett Lawrie to watch what he posts online:

  17. I don’t have anything against Thames. He seems like a nice guy and I think he can be a serviceable MLB player. But I just can’t help but root for Snider. Putting all of the sabermetric info aside (I can’t get my head around the majority of it anyway), Snider has taken every drawback with maturity beyond his years and he has battled back to the point where he has put himself in a position to be the Jays starting left fielder. When I think back to the wrist injury that ended Snider’s 2011, I can’t imagine the frustration he was feeling. Yet he tweeted shortly after that he was ready for the next step in his progression and it seems, albeit at a VERY early stage, that he was right. Meats Don’t Clash, Baby!!!

  18. Listening to AA on 590, it sounds to me like Thames’ spot on that chart needs to be adjusted up.

    • Yep.

      • Honestly, it almost sounded (to me) like there was no possible way Snider takes the job over Thames in Spring Training.

        AA talked about the fact that Thames ended the year as the Jays starting LF. What he didn’t say is that he ended the year as an AWFUL starting LF. [Arbitratry end point alert] From July 29 tot he end of the year, Thames hit .231/.288/.409/.696. He struck out 24% of the time, while walking only 7% of the time. Is there any doubt those #s would have earned Snider a demotion?

        • I should add that it WAS AA talking, so who knows what the fuck he’s actually thinking, that that’s what it *sounded like to me*.

          • See my post above. I think AA wants to build value in both Snider and Thames. He can’t build Thames’ value if he is assigned in AAA. Snider is coming off injury has some swing issues to work on. His value (miles away from being at its peak) won’t diminish if he goes to AAA. Thames’ value would nose-dive if he is sent to AAA.

            I suspect that Thames will get packaged if Snider can show that he can stick with the big club. But AA wants to build his value and can only do that if Thames shows he belongs in the big leagues.

  19. I just can’t see Snider hitting major league pitching. Perhaps this is the year he grows up.

  20. cant wait till snider gets traded or sent to aaa and we can all tell stoeten what a fucken moron he is.

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