It's hard not to feel bad for Travis Snider. The former top-prospect was in retrospect terribly mishandled by the Blue Jays organization. After being rushed to the show in 2008, Snider's spent the majority of his career bouncing between levels and battling injuries. Any promises of job-security were quickly nullified by Cito's itchy trigger finger and nagging injuries.
Last year, Snider was plagued by inconsistency and wrist tendinitis. Whatever is to blame, Snider's 2011 triple-slash of .225/.269/.348 was horrific. Typically a fastball hitter, Snider looked foolish on the high cheddar (-1.67 wFB/C) in addition to his troubles with off speed stuff. His batted ball profile (16% LD & 1.27 GB/FB) looked more like that of a slap hitter than a slugger, especially when you consider the free fall in his HR/FB Rate. For the first time in his career, Snider posted an In-Field Fly Ball Rate (14.3%) greater than his HR/FB Rate (6.1%). Yet, Snider continued to mash in hitter-friendly Las Vegas. So, the logical question arose: Is Travis Snider simply plagued by bad fortune or is he destined to become the prototypical AAAA player?
Considering that Snider just recently turned twenty-four, it's hard to imagine dubbing him a quad-A player quite this soon, but he's already accumulated almost 900 big league plate appearances. Spring should give us a glimpse into Snider's future, but three strike-out games like today shouldn't completely sway our opinion. Snider will, without a doubt, strike-out around a quarter of the time. What's in question is what Lunchbox Hero will accomplish when he makes contact. If Snider continues to pound the ball into the ground or sky it towards second base, there's a very good chance that Eric Thames will be Toronto's starting left fielder. If, however, Snider regains his ability to drive balls into the gaps and over the fence, it'll be hard to sit him against all but the upper echelon of lefties.
Both Snider and Thames showed rather lackluster plate discipline, but somewhat surprisingly Snider's seen his Swinging Strike Rate decrease each year he's been in the big leagues while his overall swing and contact rates have seen a gradual increase.
While watching the games tells me that Snider's had his fair share of bad misses, his discipline seems to indicate that he's just barely missing when he does make contact. Snider's youth and current health lead me to believe that he's not that far from putting it all together, but there's a part of me that believes that a slow start could lead to his demise in Toronto. Snider's entered the previous seasons on a short leash, but with Eric Thames currently pushing for (and probably winning) the left field job, the concept of a leash is all but non-existent.
NB: Baseball Analytics' David Golebiewski Posted A Great Article On Snider And Outside Pitches.