Snider Movin’ On Up to the East Coast

The Toronto Blue Jays organization promoted 2006 first round draft pick (14th overall) Travis Snider from High-A ball to Double-A at the beginning of the week. Many experts considered Snider to be the best pure hitter in the draft but some organizations were a little concerned with his prep football physique (5-11, 230). Regardless, Snider has done nothing but hit in the pro ranks and had a career line of .316/.388/.538 coming into the 2008 season.

Interestingly, Toronto actually planned to start Snider off in Double-A to begin the year, but an elbow injury caused the organization to rethink its plan to skip High-A ball altogether. He did not even play in minor league spring training this March because of soreness. As a result, Snider started out in the Florida State League where the weather was more forgiving than in the Eastern League. After just 61 at-bats, though, and having spent every game at designated hitter, the 20-year-old was promoted to Double-A shortly after the Jays released future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas.

The Jays organization continues to insist Snider’s injury is minor enough that it won’t need surgery and he is expected to begin a throwing program shortly and then re-enter the outfield. But the organization is not known for its candor and we’ve all read a lot about Albert Pujols‘ elbow situation.

Snider struck out at an alarming pace this season while in High-A ball with a rate of 36.1 percent. In his previous two seasons, Snider struck out at a rate of 24.2 (Rookie ball in 2006) and 28.2 percent (A-ball in 2007). In his Double-A debut, Snider went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. Just as his strikeout rates have risen, his walk rates have lowered with each promotion, from 13.4 to 9.7 to 7.6 percent.

One cannot help but wonder if Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has a sense of urgency to prove his amateur draft track record. Ricciardi came to Toronto from Oakland in November 2001 with a strong reputation for player development but only one of his first round draft picks has had an impact to this point (second baseman Aaron Hill).

Toronto has also failed to make the playoffs or show considerable improvement since he took the organizational reigns. The organization has also been involved in three high profile player disputes in recent years, involving Ted Lilly, Shea Hillenbrand and Thomas.

As a result, it might be make-or-break time for Ricciardi. By showing ownership that help is on the way – help acquired under his watch – the general manager may be thinking he can buy himself some time. Let’s just hope that is not the case. I’d hate to think someone who should know better is putting a promising player’s career at risk by rushing him through the system.

Editor’s Note: I just wanted to give a warm welcome to Marc Hulet. He’ll be covering the minor leagues and prospects for FanGraphs, and I think you’ll find his writing both informative and insightful. Marc writes a weekly column at Baseball Analysts and is a contributor to both and Marc, please let me know if I’ve missed anything!

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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