TRAVIS SNIDER, CORNER OUTFIELDER
|Born: February 2, 1988
Drafted: 1st Round, 14th Overall, 2006 (Blue Jays)
How Acquired: Minor league free agent
High School: H.M. Jackson HS, Mill Creek, WA
Agent: CAA Sports
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Snider is on his second go-round with the Pirates. They initially acquired him from the Blue Jays at the 2012 trade deadline for Brad Lincoln. He was considered a top prospect when he was coming up through Toronto’s system, but he never got established in the majors. He put up prodigious numbers in the low minors and also has done so in AAA. The AAA numbers have to be regarded with some suspicion, though, because almost all of Snider’s time at that level was spent in Las Vegas, which severely inflates hitting numbers even by the standards of the hitting-happy Pacific Coast League. His numbers in AAA, though, are good even taking the environment into account. Snider hasn’t been as successful in the majors, although he hasn’t struggled nearly as much as, say, Andy LaRoche. It probably didn’t help that his manager in Toronto from 2008-10 was Cito Gaston, who’s been known to take irrational dislikes to some players, Shawn Green being an example. Snider did not get many extended periods with the Jays when he was simply put into the major league lineup and left there.
Defensively, Snider is probably about average, both fielding and throwing. UZR shows him to be above-average, but other metrics aren’t as generous. He’s not speedy but runs better than his size suggests. He didn’t handle LHPs well in the majors early in his career, but hit them very well in 2014 and, by the time the Pirates acquired him the second time, had a career OPS against them that was only 17 points lower than his OPS against RHPs. He’s had significant platoon splits in the upper minors. Snider has a tendency toward nagging injuries, especially wrist problems.
Toronto sent Snider, a high school draftee, to advanced rookie ball rather than to the complex league and he dominated, although with a high K rate.
Snider continued to put up outstanding numbers as a 19-year-old in full season ball. His K rate increased, though, to one every three and a half ABs. Baseball America rated him the 11th best prospect in baseball after the season.
The Jays promoted Snider rapidly through three levels, then brought him up to the majors at the end of August. That probably wasn’t a good idea, as later events showed. He had issues making contact all along the way. BA rated him the 6th best prospect in baseball after the season.
Snider opened the season with the Jays, but struggled and was sent to AAA after posting a .686 OPS through late May. While in AAA, he missed time with a shoulder injury, but put up huge numbers when he played. He returned to Toronto in mid-August and hit better the rest of the way.
Snider again opened with Toronto and had an OPS of .806 in mid-May, but he started having wrist problems that plagued him throughout much of the season, including two DL stints. He spent some time in AA, then returned to the majors at the end of July. He didn’t hit as well after his return.
Snider opened in Toronto again, but struggled badly and was sent down at the end of April. At that time he had a .540 OPS. He didn’t hit as well in AAA as he had at other times, mainly losing HR power. Judging by the reduced K rate, it’s possible he cut down on his swing. Snider came back up in early July and hit a little better, but was sent back down in early August. He missed some time with a concussion, then a wrist injury in late August cost him a September callup.
This time the Jays sent Snider to AAA to start the season. He continued to have problems with a sore right wrist, missing time in April, May and June because of it. Just the same, he put up huge numbers in AAA. The Jays called him up on July 20 and traded him ten days later. Snider was an interesting pickup for the Pirates. Instead of a rental, they managed to get a player with four years of control left, one who still seemed to have a good ceiling. He couldn’t be written off as a failed prospect given that he’s only half a year older than Starling Marte. Before he started struggling with the hamstring problem, he seemed to have adjusted his approach at the plate to hit the ball to all fields. In Toronto, he was urged to try to pull the ball to hit more HRs, an approach that doesn’t seem to have worked out.He started off well for the Pirates, hitting 289/368/410 in August, with ten walks and 18 strikeouts. He strained a hamstring near the end of the month, though, and instead of sitting him out until it healed, the Pirates tried playing him. He was in and out of the lineup the rest of the year and never got fully healthy. He batted just 171/222/171 in September and October, with no extra base hits, three walks and 15 Ks in 45 plate appearances.
Snider had a very disappointing year. He spent the first half of the season in more or less of a platoon in right with Jose Tabata and got off to a good start, hitting 300/382/417 in April. After that, though, his hitting quickly cratered. He posted an OPS of .675 in May, .475 in June and .369 in July. At the end of July he went on the disabled list with a toe injury and didn’t return to the majors until September. During the last month he served almost exclusively as a pinch hitter. There was nothing encouraging about his hitting. He had a high K rate (26.3%), a high rate of infield flies (11.5%), and a very low line drive rate (15.2%).
Not seemed like a very strong candidate to be non-tendered, but the Pirates settled with him on a $1.2M deal. He had a good spring and opened the season sharing right field with Tabata, getting the greater share of the playing time. He struggled early and, in May, largely lost the job to Josh Harrison. When the Pirates called Gregory Polanco up in June, it was widely expected that they would designate Snider for assignment. Instead, they sent Tabata to AAA. Ironically, at about that point Snider started hitting. He continued to get semi-regular playing time in July and August due to injuries to Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen, then mostly reclaimed the right field job when Polanco struggled. He did miss time late in the season with a hamstring injury, although he didn’t go on the disabled list. After putting up just a 237/318/342 line in the season’s first half, Snider hit 288/356/524 in the second half. Snider destroyed LHPs (albeit in just 47 plate appearances), posting a 1.054 OPS against them, compared to .734 against RHPs.
The Pirates traded Snider to Baltimore during the off-season for left-handed pitching prospects Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault. The move was predictably condemned in the usual circles as a salary dump, but it showed the Pirates were committed to Polanco in right and it was intended to address their growing lack of pitching depth in the low minors, especially the dearth of left-handed pitching prospects. The trade worked out in all respects, as Brault and Tarpley had outstanding seasons in the minors and Polanco, after struggling for the first half of the season, began to emerge in the second half as the player the Pirates were expecting him to be. Snider, meanwhile, struggled with the Orioles. The main difference seemed to be a decline in his patience, as he swung at more pitches both inside and outside the strike zone, and saw a significant drop in the frequency with which he made contact, as well as an increase in his strikeout rate from 18.7% to 23.7%. The percentage of his flyballs that went over the fence dropped from 16.5% to 6.3%. In August, the Orioles released Snider when they called up Junior Lake. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal and sent him to Indianapolis until September 1, when they called him up. He served as a fourth outfielder and pinch hitter for the season’s last month. Snider didn’t put up especially good numbers, but he had several key hits, producing eight RBIs in just 29 plate appearances.
Snider will be eligible again for arbitration. The Pirates didn’t want to pay him an arbitration salary in 2015, so it’s unlikely they’ll want to do so in 2016. On the other hand, he brought a good return in the Orioles trade and won’t likely bring any return at all now. They also have no obvious fourth outfielder. The only likely candidates as of the end of the season (assuming Andrew Lambo doesn’t suddenly get healthy) were Jaff Decker and Keon Broxton, neither of whom would likely be as good an option as Snider.
2012: Major League Minimum
|Signing Bonus: $1,700,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 8/29/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2017
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: August 29, 2008
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2009, 2011, 2012)
MLB Service Time: 4.091
|June 6, 2006: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round, 14th overall pick; signed on June 18.
August 29, 2008: Contract purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays.
July 30, 2012: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Brad Lincoln.
January 27, 2015: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Baltimore Orioles for Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley.
August 7, 2015: Designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles; released on August 15.
August 19, 2015: Signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a minor league free agent.
September 1, 2015: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.