Thursday, 7 August 2008

Urging Caution

There was definitely some excitment last night hearing JP announce on JaysTalk that phenom Travis Snider had been called up to AAA, which probably puts him on track for a mid-season call up next year. Snider is undoubtably the most exciting young position player to come through the Jays system since Vernon Wells came up to stay in 2001 and good or ill in 2009, it'll be a pleasure to watch Snider develop with big club.

And there there was some trepidation.

There's little more than 3 weeks left to play in the high minor leagues and Snider's promotion to Syracuse at this point amounts to nothing more than a brief peekaboo at the next rung up the ladder. If it must be said that he played through an elbow injury early in the season, it should also be noted that he hasn't dominated AA either (.258/.351/.456 in 333 ABs).

It's a feather in his cap to make the jump from high A ball to AAA in his age 20 season, but that pat in the back could've also come in the form of a September call-up after finishing out the year in New Hampshire and semi-regular PT in the bigs for a few weeks. Added benefits: give the fan base a glimpse of the future (and sell a few extra tickets to otherwise meaningless games), get the kid a taste of the bigs, then let him start 2009 fresh in Syracuse. No harm done.

I'm urging caution with Snider because two-thirds of the Jays current outfield is made up of promising young hitters who were rushed (by JP) through AAA and stalled during their first go at a full-time job in the bigs. There's no catch-all model for all hitters, but I'd hate to see the same happen to Snider next year after all the promise he's shown early in his pro career.

After dominating AA at age 22 (.923 OPS) in 2003, Alex Rios was called up to Toronto the following year despite scuffling (.665 OPS) through a brief 185-AB pit stop in Syracuse. While his first two seasons in the bigs weren't an unmitigated disaster, it was clear at the time that his game wasn't quite ready for prime time. Two years of service time were burnt for a .721 OPS season with 1 HR and a .703 OPS with 10 HR. Rios was knocking, but he hadn't yet kicked the door down.

Adam Lind followed a similar path, though he was promoted even more aggressively. He probably could have hit anything, anywhere back in 2006 as he actually got better with each successive call up, but he still only ended up with under 300 AAA ABs (and that after only about 2/3 of a season at AA) before coming up as Reed Johnson's injury replacement in 2007. We all know how that ended up, though there's little doubt now that he's a capable big league hitter. Nevertheless, that early promotion did some serious damage to his overall development, something that JP seems quite aware of these days.

I could go outside the organization to cite a few other examples of hitters who were imprudently rushed to the bigs, though none looms larger than Billy Butler, the young Royal whose game most closely resembles Snider's. Maybe Snider is born to hit and can handle the call to the bigs next year at age 21, but the risks of an aggressive promotion schedule have to be weighed against the long-term consequences for both the player and the team. As excited as you all are for him, don't assume that he should be a Jay in 2009.

-- Johnny Was


eyebleaf said...

if we're out of this by september (and by that i mean more than 5 games out going into the final month), i want to see snider up here. it's hard not to be excited by this kid but you're right, we can't push him too fast.

what do you see the outfield like in 2009? who's going to become the DH? Lind? If we trade Overbay, can we make Lind or Snider a 1B?

sp said...

Thank you! For God's sake, he's 20 and just look at his K-rate. Striking out more than once a game is unacceptable for AA. I say leave him at AA. Promote him to AAA sometime next season with a possible cup of coffee late next season. And then maybe bring him up some time in 2010. And even then he'll still be only 22 and might need even more time in the minors. I am all for giving him all the possible time he needs to become the hitter we think he can be.

The Southpaw said...

Both Snider and Lind throw left, but Lind is 3 inches taller which makes him a slightly bigger target as a first baseman, which is ultimately what the worse outfielder of the two will end up being. But Snider can play both corner OF slots where Lind shouldn't be in RF, so you never know.

eyebleaf said...

i guess we gotta push overbay this summer then. which kinda sucks, cuz i really like lyle.

Jer said...

DH is where lind or or snider will end up... in 09!!! Unless we make a splash with ManRam the kid's coming up!

The Southpaw said...

I've always assumed that, barring a horrific injury next year (in the second half) Snider was on track for a September 2009 promotion. the only question about this September was whether or not to burn a 40-man-roster spot a year early for him and JP said last night he was NOT coming up in September.

As for next season, there's no way JP is ggoing to look to the kid to be a savior...your outfield will be Lind/Wells/Rios and Overbay will be at first and JP will try to sign a big DH (hunch says Manny).

THEN, in the NEXT off-season, he'll peddle Overbay, shift Lind to 1B, and put Snider in LF. By late 2010 Cooper should be banging on the door but if it takes a three year deal to land Manny (which it might) then he's gonna be blocked for a year, if we get Manny for 2, then so much the better (money wise).

When Cooper arrives the Jays will have to decide who's D they like better between him and Lind and make the other the DH.

Easy-squeezy if everyone lives up to their clippings.

But there's no way Snider needs to be up here next year except in case of injury. Promoting him is no substitute for brining in a legit veteran slugger.


eyebleaf said...

you're absolutely right, we can't rush this kid. and hopefully overbay can rebound in '09 and start pounding the ball to the gaps again.

and thanks for the link in the blogroll. appreciate it. cheers.

dave said...

If they're going to rush him then I hope he can handle only hitting .200 and getting embarassed at the plate more then a few times...