Shortly following Travis Snider’s final ugly plate appearance during yesterday’s Spring Training game against the Boston Red Sox, in which the 24 year old Toronto Blue Jays outfielder struck out on four pitches with horrible swings on a left handed pitcher’s hard sliders, the one time top prospect was demoted to Minor League camp. The roster move signifies Toronto’s plan to go with Eric Thames in left field to start the season, possibly platooning with Rajai Davis or Ben Francisco against left handed pitching.

As I wrote over at DJF yesterday, Snider being sent down is far from surprising. The young left handed hitter has struggled to find any consistency at all over his time at the Major League level. However, from the brief flashes of brilliance that he has shown and his rise through the Minor League system at such a ridiculously young age, it’s difficult to suggest that his upside isn’t dramatically larger than that of Thames.

The coming season for the Blue Jays once again represents a see what we’ve got moment for the club. The majority of the regulars in the lineup all have massive question marks as far as their projected value this coming season.

Think objectively for a moment. How much confidence would you place in any guess as to how J.P. Arencibia, Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson, Colby Rasmus, Thames or Snider are going to do this year. In fact, the most reliable members of the starting lineup consist of a shortstop who was practically given away by the Atlanta Braves because of a supposed attitude problem, a third basemen with 171 career MLB plate appearances and a right fielder who no one had heard of two years ago.

With so much variance, it seems to me it would be the perfect time to give players with the highest upside the most opportunity to succeed. While Thames is a nice guy who puts in a visible amount of effort, he doesn’t project to be much more than a fourth outfielder and certainly not the type to be brought in as a defensive replacement.

Thanks to the grumblings from the what have you done for me lately fan base, Snider has become the type of prospect who is far too quickly transitioned into a suspect. He’s only 24 years old. That’s less than a month older than Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners, who only put up slightly better numbers as a 23 year old than Snider put up as a 20 and 21 year old. Alex Gordon, the Kansas City Royals prospect who finally had his breakout after years of hype, had almost 800 more MLB plate appearances than Snider currently has before he saw the type of success that everyone expected him to have.

Major League Baseball isn’t easy, and it gets even more difficult when a highly touted player gets yo-yo’d around at a young and impressionable age. With so many question marks on the current team roster, what’s one more, especially when the potential upside is as remarkable as the one the Snider offers?

And The Rest

A horrible off season for Ryan Madson got even worse during the exhibition schedule, as it was announced over the weekend that the Cincinnati Reds’ closer requires Tommy John surgery and will miss the entirety of the 2012 season. [Getting Blanked]

Seattle Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi has never seen his team play live, and doesn’t plan on making an exception when the Ms open the season in his native Japan. [Hearld Net]

The Miami Marlins home run celebrating mechanized monstrosity really is something, I guess. [Big League Stew]

The joys of symmetrical slash lines. [Value Over Replacement Grit]

The sports editor of The Economist and the man in charge of an online service designed to help amateur players share their thoughts on the possibility of MLB one day holding an International draft. [FanGraphs]

The Milwaukee Brewers made the right decision when they signed Aramis Ramirez. At least it was the best decision that they could make at the time. [Disciples of Uecker]

I don’t want to jinx anything, but Johan Santana’s recovery continues today with the expectation that he’ll throw 90-95 pitches today against the St. Louis Cardinals. [Mets Merized Online]

While I have my questions about the abilities of the Detroit Tigers lineup outside of Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, I’m not sure I’m really scratching my head questioning if the Kansas City Royals are better than them. [Royals Review]

Eleven years ago this past weekend, the greatest play in the history of baseball occurred. Happy anniversary! [Getting Blanked]

Whether or not Freddy Sanchez starts the season on the Disabled List, the San Francisco Giants have decided to begin shopping what was planned to be his two headed replacement Mikan Fonterio. [McCovey Chronicles]

No matter who the Giants start with at second base, this year’s edition of the middle infield promises to be one of the weakest in memory. [Bay City Ball]

Debunking the power struggle and other Spring Training myths for the Boston Red Sox. []

The pros and cons of having Daniel Bard in the Boston Red Sox starting rotation. [FOX Sports]

Finally, Spring Training. It’s good for something at least. [SB Nation]

Comments (30)

  1. Although I’m firmly on Team Snider and wish he had been given a serious chance on this team, I think calling Thames “a nice guy who puts in a visible amount of effort” is selling him awfully short. He’s also a guy who has a career OPS over .900 in the minor leagues – and only 50-ish of those games were in Vegas, so it’s not like that’s a PCL-inflated number or anything.

    I think we can all agree that Snider has more upside, but it’s not like Thames is a total scrub. It’s in the Jays’ best interest to see what they have in him, whether that’s as a piece on this club or a trade asset. I’m fairly certain he made the team for better reasons than, “he looks like he tries hard”.

    • Quoting Minor League numbers isn’t the best way to win an argument because they’re essentially meaningless, paling in comparison to how the player follows instruction and works on his mechanics, but making a comparison between a high school player’s Minor League numbers and a college player is even worse.

      • I wasn’t making that comparison, nor was I trying to imply that Thames can put up those numbers in the MLB. Just taking issue with your description that made it sound as if he’s done nothing to earn a shot. He’s a player who’s had a lot of success at every level of the minors, not a “gritty gamer” like Sam Fuld or something.

      • I even said clearly that I’m a huge Snider fan and I wish he had made the team. What argument are you referring to?

        • Sorry, if that was a harsher return than necessary. Didn’t mean for it to be confrontational.

          I still think that given what I saw from Thames last season, I’ll take the word of the prospect experts who forecast him as a fourth outfielder.

          • I don’t disagree, but I do think a lot of the “4th outfielder” talk is coloured, perhaps unfairly, by his lack of hype/reputation/being older than most real propects/etc… which is fair enough, but not necessarily enough to write him off entirely. The flip side of that is that the Blue Jays employ one of the largest scouting and player development staffs in the MLB, and clearly they believe he’s got more upside than that – so it’s not like there’s only one opinion of him out there.

            That said, I don’t expect Thames to still be playing LF for the Jays in, say, July. But hopefully that’s because he played well enough to earn some significant trade value, which I think is a real possibility that a lot of people are writing off just because they’re mad that he’s not Travis Snider.

          • So are you saying that there is no way to measure Thame’s upside or worth? It seems pretty clear to me that you and most people posting have already made a determination that Thames isn’t is good as Snider, yet as you say, there is no way to prove this ant therefore you are just making a giant assumption that Snider is the better option?

  2. thames was terrible last september, if he had started his mlb career with those kinds of numbers he probably would never of gotten the chance to stick either. hopefully he doesn’t have many months like that or left field will continue to be a hole.

    it’s pretty obvious what has happened, snider has nobody left in the organization to advocate for him, and it doesn’t matter what his pedigree is in that case, nobody feels the need to stick their neck out for him.

    when are the jays going to get a home run feature, i think a guy in a suit bending a fan over a barrel would be appropriate

  3. What if AA believes that Thames might peaking right now and is possibly trying to increase his trade value by keeping him up? I wouldn’t be shocked if Snider finishes the season with the Jays

  4. I think it is better to have snider start the year in the minors for two reasons;

    1) thames might build up some nice trade value by being something like a league average left fielder making the major league minimum.

    2) to break the cycle of abuse that snider has been through the last two years. Even if the jays promise him he is getting 500ABs, why would he believe them? Why wouldn’t he start looking over his shoulder at the first slump? Better, i think, for him to get his swing exactly how he wants it. For him to be relaxed and positive for w a few months before coming up.

    obviously a lot of “intangibles” arguments but i think it is pretty clear that the jays have not turned his clear talent into major league production and it is not 100% clear why.

    • I think your second point might be the key here: For three years in a row, Snider has started with the team, only to have his performance scrutinized for a month before being sent back down again. This year, he gets to be the one knocking on the door rather than looking over his shoulder. With AA saying yesterday that it’s an “ongoing” competition, I think it’s probably actually better for him this way. He’ll be back soon enough, but hopefully when that happens, it’ll be for the long-term.

      • wouldn’t it be great if they just once actually let him work his way out of a slump at the mlb level rather than send him back down. he might already be a great player if they had done that.

        • whoa! just noticed i used the word clear 3 times in one sentence.

        • Wouldn’t it be great if Snider didn’t strike out at a 35% clip and had some sort of strike zone judgement so they wouldn’t have to keep sending him to the minors.

          Simple fact is right now Snider is probably too good for triple A, but not good enough to play everyday in the majors, and I see no reason for him to fix his problems against major league pitching if the team has an alternative player they can use.

          • awesome, except he doesn’t seem to be fixing the problem by playing against AAA pitching and probably can’t, just like nobody else ever has. if that really is the jays plan (hoping to god it isn’t) he’ll probably make a fool out of them with some other org and i hope they treat lawrie better when he inevitably struggles.

          • Why does he have to be in the major leagues to improve his strike zone judgement. Snider has struck out 445 times against 195 BB’s in the minors, he needs to improve this ratio.

          • can’t reply to the relevant post for some reason but maybe when you noticed the minor league K numbers you also noticed the minor league career 900ops and the fact he started in the minors when he was 18. he has nothing left to prove down there, and he has little incentive to change what he does at that level because he has nothing but success, whatever he does.

          • I think being in the minors should be incentive enough to try and change. If he still doesn’t want to change, let another organization try to fix him.

          • change what exactly? what exactly is he supposed to improve upon from his AAA stats from last season? if the goal is to strike out less can he be reasonably expected to do better than he did last year? if you want him to walk more he would probably have to just go to the plate and never swing at all. he had a 394obp while reworking his swing.

          • I want Snider to improve his pitch and strike zone recognition, this is what is holding him back at the moment. It’s not about trying to take more walks or trying to strike out less, it’s about laying off pitches that are outside of the strike zone and recognizing fastball vs. off-speed pitches.

          • he struck out 44 times in 277 PA last season at AAA. 15.8% of the time he went to the plate (thames by comparison 20% of the time) he had a .327BA and a .394OBP – while reworking his swing. can he do better as a batter that is trying to generate any power at all? is your argument really that it doesn’t matter how good his stats are he has to better at something that isn’t quantifiable? or that he has to be better in the MLB at bats he isn’t getting?

  5. On an emotional level, sending Snider down hurts, but I think it is the most logical decision. My assertion is that if you started Snider in the majors this year and he fails, he’s basically done as a Blue Jay, and you would be forced to sell low on him.
    The best chance of maximizing value with Snider is to send him to AAA, and only bring him up when he forces himself into the lineup. If you start the season with him and he fails, I feel he becomes a prototypical ‘change of scenery’ guy.
    Instead, hope that he goes down to Vegas and does so well (with power, this time) that the fan base clamours for his return, a la Brett Lawrie c. 2011.
    Let Snider build a sustained base of success, hopefully this time carrying it through to the majors.

  6. I really like Snider and want him to click with this team and am willing to have patience. The gnashing of teeth that he has proven all he has to in the minors is just wrong. In Vegas last year, where it is easier to hit as we all know, he had lower OPS than Adam Loewen, Ricardo Nanita, David Cooper and was 160 points lower than Thames and 200 points lower than Lawrie. Because of the baked infield I don’t think you can really just look at average and OPS though, look at extra base hits to judge the real power of the hitting – Lawrie had 46% of his hits go for extra bases, Thames was 48%, Cooper was 36%, Snider was 35%. Who is pissed that David Cooper is being screwed over??? Exactly. Travis had only 2 more walks than Thames in 38 more ABs.

    The real truth is Travis did not KILL IT down in Vegas last year. He should be able to put up Lawrie-like (heck, even Thames-like) numbers down there, then there is a real argument.

    • sure, if you want to ignore the fact he was supposed to be re-working his swing the whole time he was down there or the 1.094OPS in 2009 at AAA.

  7. I think your whole question mark thing is a bit overstated. What team isn’t full of question marks? Take these for example:
    Jeter- was last year’s second half a fluke?
    Granderson- Just one year removed from being a very mediocre player
    Cano- ok fine, he’s good
    a rod- will he be healthy?
    texeira- same questions as Lind, but not nearly as bad
    russel martin- does he have power?

    Red Sox:
    Ellsbury- does he really have power?
    Pedroia- will he stay healthy?
    Youk- will he be healthy?
    Crawford- was last year the new norm?

    • right so the yankees and sox question marks are – will this guy continue/return to be one of the best players in the game or stay healthy where as the jays question marks are can this guy be a slightly above average mlb player or better – yeah that’s equivalent.

  8. Snider reminds me of Nelson Cruz. Great tools with plus power. Dominated AAA pitching but then struggled with the elite off-speed and fastball command that a hitter must deal with everyday when facing MLB pitching. Cruz was traded and only developped with a new organization in his age 27 season. I think he also went through waivers once or twice.

    AA said recently that the Indians had given up too early on Brandon Jacobs and likes to use that example of how it can take a player more time to properly develop. I don’t think that the Jays are prepared to give up on him as his ceiling is potentially really good. But right now, Thames’ floor is higher and sending Thames to AAA would really diminish his value. Besides, Thames has done nothing wrong and has earned the job, for now.

    We all know that Snider needs to work on his pitch recognition skills. There are a few fringe AAA pitchers who throw junk and others who have decent fastball command. I am betting that the Jays will employ a monitoring chart for each Snider at bat to see how he is doing versus each style of pitcher to make proper evaluations.

    Snider needs to figure it out this season. The Jays are beyond worried about burning his last option.

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