Archive for the ‘Travis Snider’ Category

Something truly remarkable happened yesterday…

Something I didn’t think would ever happen again…

Something so many of us had been quietly hoping we’d never have to deal with again…

Parkes actually wrote a goddamn post.

The news of the Jays demotion of Travis Snider to minor league camp, on the other hand? Not terribly surprising.

Nor is it, in my view, another instance of the Jays dicking around a once-extraordinary prospect, as many have been real effing quick to want to shout.

Much like Snider, Eric Thames is probably too good to be toiling in Las Vegas all season. And as much as the idea of giving Snider 600 MLB at-bats, come what may, sounds like the ideal plan for his development, it’s a quaint notion that would have been very difficult for the club to pull off if Snider slumped, Thames raked in Vegas, and the club– thanks especially to the lure of the AL’s extra Wild Card spot– needed production from its left fielder.

Almost certainly there would have, at some point, been pressures– both internal and external– to help the club by replacing a slumping Snider with Thames. Astutely, by being firm about Thames’ advantages in a position battle that Alex Anthopoulos acknowledges will likely go on all year, the club has ensured that they’ll avoid a potentially much more damaging scenario down the road.

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I’m not going to pretend that there hasn’t been a lot of Travis Snider love in these pages lately– too much, most likely– or that I didn’t feel slight pangs of guilt when it was tweeted at me this weekend that Eric Thames had said on the radio that he doesn’t “care what bloggers think” about where the battle between him and Snider stands so far.

Honestly, as much as I’m still in the tank for the tantalizing promise Snider once showed, I’d genuinely love to see Eric Thames take the ball and run with it and succeed– and I don’t think he’s incapable. It’s just… well… it’s just stuff like this:

ESPN is ranking the top 500 players in baseball, and today came out with the bottom 100 of their list. Riffing on that was Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory and the ZiPS projection system, who singled out seven players who could potentially be the the next Jose Bautista (Insider only). In other words, “some of the second-tier prospects and youngish journeymen who sit in the 401-500 range who still have a chance of really surprising, much like Bautista did in 2010.”

Marc Rzepczynski makes the list– much to what I’m sure is the delight of our friend Drew from over at Getting Blanked– but the first name mentioned ranked at number 475 on the Top 500 (below Eric Thames, it should be noted), Travis Snider.

“After hitting .301/.338/.466 during a cup of coffee stint at age 20 in 2008, 2009 was supposed to be Snider’s big breakout,” Szymborski writes. “Then 2010. Then 2011. The calendar’s turned yet again, and the Jays are still waiting for Snider to force his way into the heart of a solid Jays lineup. While there’s a natural inclination to give up on Snider, he just turned 24. ZiPS, for one, has soured considerably on Snider, but on the upside, still thinks he can develop into a Kevin Mitchell-type hitter in the best-case scenario. Mitchell had a better first experience in the majors, but had setbacks of his own, such as repeating Triple-A after a rough season with the Tidewater Tides in 1984. And remember, Mitchell was National League MVP in 1989.”

OK, so maybe it’s not quite the Mickey Mantle comparison some Globe and Mail commenter wants to put on Brett Lawrie’s head, but Mitchell was no slouch, putting up 31.1 wins in a career that spanned parts of 13 seasons. He was worth four wins four times, including a 4.2 fWAR in the strike-shortened 1994 season, and 7.1 fWAR in his ’89 MVP campaign. He also was in the three win neighbourhood an additional three times.

So… not a career to be scoffed at by a long stretch.

Also, this:

 

For Snider? Fuckin’ eh, I’ll take it. Since, y’know, right now we’re staring down the barrel of pretty much shit all.

I feel I must preface this post by saying that I haven’t heard the source material myself, and am simply relaying second-hand information being tweeted by @GSJays. Which isn’t to say I think he’s making it up, I just want to be clear about that, and the fact that any interpretation of the tone of the comments (I’m thinking of words like “hated” and “horribly” when I say this) is his and not mine.

Now, with that out of the way, Matt Stairs, everybody!

So… there’s that.

It all kind of makes sense, of course. I mean, it’s not an entirely surprising sentiment for a Jays player from that era to have, though it’s a little surprising to hear it supposedly expressed. And Stairs is pretty much exactly bang on when it comes to the approach the Jays should finally take with their once ridiculously-elite prospect. It’s just… at the same time, I kinda really want to hear the XM radio interview clip for myself before getting too worked up about it. (Anybody? Li’l help?)

Even then, it’s kinda old news. Cito got away with a lot of absolute ridiculousness, because he’s Cito. We know.

 

Update: Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter caught the segment as well, and relays the information as well, in a slightly less incendiary way.

After yesterday’s heavy dose of realism, Jays fans demanded that Keith Law, the obliterator of all their little hopes and dreams, come forth and defend his absurd views on Dustin McGowan!

Or… probably it was just his contract with TSN Radio. Or maybe they just asked.

Either way, KLaw hit the airwaves– the free, public airwaves that I can quote anything from with a clear conscience, I should add– this afternoon and elaborated on what he saw yesterday when he took in the epic Grapefruit League tilt between the Jays and the Astros in Kissimmee.

And, actually, he skipped a lot of the stuff about McGowan. Or… probably I just tuned in a little too late to catch it.

What I did hear was pretty seriously awesome, especially where two the players I’d like to see the Jays not dick around are concerned: Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider.

He also talked Anthony Gose, Travis d’Arnaud, about the back of the rotation in general, and followed up his piece from yesterday with some activity in the comments.

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Alex Anthopoulos was on the Fan590 this morning with Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt (audio here), and while a lot of it was typical Anthopoulosian blather, he did admit that he overstepped when he proclaimed last year that Adeiny Hechavarria was a shortstop, end of story, and he had a few things to say that were definitely worth noting– even if we don’t necessarily believe what he’s saying. Actually, especially if we don’t.

Part Two of Three – Eric Thames (But Mostly Travis Snider)

“Travis knows that Eric is the frontrunner going in. Eric knows that he’s not being handed the job. Travis is going to have to play that much better than Eric, because the context of spring stats,” said Alex Anthopoulos, summing up the left field situation as best he could, in response to a Stephen Brunt question about the impressive start Travis Snider has had in camp.

“I knew that the competition in left field would be a story,” he lamented. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be as much of a point of emphasis, strictly because, by design it was– we told Travis this, we told Eric this– Eric is frontrunner for the job.”

That assertion is about as emphatic as Anthopoulos gets (non-responding to intellectually dishonest and/or moronic Man in White accusations division), and it caused some uproar in the comments on the Chart Attack post from yesterday, where my little, entirely-unscientific Travis Snider head edged past Thames into the lead for the position.

As I said then, the Jays most likely don’t quite view it as a horse race, the way makes the most sense to our minds. I could have added that, if they do, there’s really no value to them in saying so outwardly, toying with these guys’ minds and making it a bigger story than it already is.

If there genuinely is a competition, Snider has to have made a much bigger first impression than Thames. Anthopoulos seems to acknowledge it, downplaying it while astutely noting that “Travis has been great, Eric has played very well also, but I’m also cognizant of the fact that these are small sample sizes in Spring Training against not the greatest of competition.”

In that sense, Thames is still most likely viewed as the frontrunner– and quite rightly so, especially since Alex makes clear that part of the reason there’s even a competition involving an incumbent starter is because he “to adjust my style, from a philosophy standpoint, because I think maybe it’s not the best thing in the world to hand a kid a job.”

But the sample sizes will get larger, and as cuts are made across the various camps, the level of competition will rise.

“It’s nothing against Travis,” he says, “because I love him as a player, I love him as a human being, I love him as a prospect, but you don’t want to guarantee anything.”

Further to that, ”I really want to avoid the up and down with Travis,” Anthopoulos explains. “Hopefully the next time he’s up here, whether it’s Opening Day, or it’s some point during the season, or whether it’s next year, he’s here to stay.”

Perhaps that indicates that the team is going to be more inclined to take a cautious approach with Snider, even if he outperforms Thames thoroughly this spring. And, you know what? If they’re not ready to give him the reins on April fifth, because of a fear that he’ll once again lose his consistency and have to be sent back down, while some fans seem to want to look at that as some kind of indication that Snider’s task this spring is impossible, and that the organization is probably looking to move on, I just don’t know how they fucking figure. The Jays’ reasoning on all this sounds about right to me.

Click to embiggen

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.

I’m not saying he’s wrong, I’m just saying, y’know, this makes me a bit queasy.

In his Toronto Sun piece on the possibility that the Jays have been not-so-quietly looking at Joe Blanton of the Phillies, Bob Elliot writes that “the Phillies like Travis Snider and have a need in left field.”

Because why have one Domonic Brown when you can have two, amiright?

I don’t know… it’s probably not worth getting too worked up over baseless speculation– especially on a guy who Elliott’s drinking scouting buddies say would slot in behind Brett Cecil, and who reminds them of Joey Hamilton (who we’re told was rather awesomely given the nickname “Brewster” by Shawn Green after getting a $17-million extension from the Jays in 1998, in reference to “the character in the Brewster’s Millions movie, starring Richard Pryor and John Candy, about the minor-leaguer who has to waste $30 million in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million.”)

Even “BlantonMania” is a biiiiiiiit of a stretch, huh?

That’s mid-March for ya, I guess.