Outfielder Travis Snider of the Toronto Blue Jays(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
A first round pick in 2006, he reached the majors in just two years with great expectations. I had him as a Grade B+ and Number 20 on my hitting list in 2007, another B+ and a 23 ranking in 2008, and a Grade A- and a Number 2 ranking in 2009. In the '09 book, I wrote that "a few growing pains are likely inevitable" and that he would probably need "consolidation time," but that he was still one of the best offensive prospects in the game.
Injuries and erratic performance have highlighted his '09 and '10 seasons in the majors, but keep in mind that Snider is only 23 years old. He hit .241/.328/.419 in 276 plate appearances in '09 (OPS+95, WAR 0.0), but improved that last year to .255/.304/.463 (OPS+106, WAR 1.5) in 319 PA. All told, in 184 career games, 679 PA, he has a .254/.319/.445 mark, 103 OPS+, WAR 1.8. His 162-game average shows 35 doubles and 22 homers...very impressive for a player his age. It also shows 180 strikeouts, although he did cut whiff rate last year, from 32.4% to 26.5%, which I take as a good sign.
Improving his platoon splits will be critical: his career OPS against lefties is just .675, while it's .784 against right-handers. He did make some progress with that last year: the vs-southpaw-OPS increased from .608 to .702 last year. Basically I think the trend lines are good here.
What's really interesting is the list of Most Similar Batters through age 22: Ruppert Jones, Pete Incavigla, Steve Kemp, Willie Horton, Willie Mays (!!), Dave Winfield (!), Jeff Burroughs, Harold Baines, Ron Fairly, and Max West. This is an intriguing list.
The Mays comp is misleading: Willie had missed all of his age 22 season and the Sim Score doesn't account for that so what they are comparing really isn't similar. Obviously they are very different physically and athletically. Winfield was more effective on a league-context adjusted basis than Snider has been, although he wasn't Dave Winfield yet and when through a period of being regarded as disappointing. Jones was a tools guy with power and much more speed than Snider has, but his injuries tapped his career out early.
Incavigilia had enormous power but faded fast. Steve Kemp was a really good hitter but his career died out due to injuries. Burroughs peaked early but was also a very good player. Willie Horton and Ron Fairly had very long and successful careers. Baines is a borderline HoF guy. Max West was a good hitter but his career was shortened by World War II. Bottom line is that everyone on Snider's Sim Score list was at least a good player and some of them were great. I find it interesting that half of these guys (Jones, Inky, Kemp, Burroughs, West) faded out quickly for a variety of different reasons, while half (Horton, Mays, Winfield, Baines, Fairly) lasted forever.
My personal take is that Snider will make the needed adjustments and rake. He might fade out fairly early in his early 30s, but I expect him to be one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball for at least a few years.