Impact Analysis: Adam Lind and Travis Snider, Toronto Blue Jays
by Bryce McRae
on January 23, 2009 @ 01:00:00
The Toronto Blue Jays slumped to a fourth-place finish in 2008, though it was through no fault of their stellar pitching staff (3.49 ERA - first in the majors). The offense is where most of the burden for their sub-par finish fell, a trend that has developed over the last few years.
With the economic uncertainty and Canadian dollar plummeting, the Blue Jays were not able to make any major free-agent splashes like their American League East brethren. Instead, they lost No. 2 starter A.J. Burnett to the New York Yankees and will be without starter Shaun Marcum (elbow) for the entire season. The offense will be needed even more than it has in previous years.
A pair of promising outfielders - Travis Snider and Adam Lind - is where a large portion of Toronto's hope lies. The Blue Jays have stated they view this season as a bridge to 2010 - when they should be able to afford at least a few signings - so even if they struggle, Snider and Lind should still see significant playing time.
Lind's turnaround in 2008 can be pinpointed by one moment: the Blue Jays' hiring of Cito Gaston as manager John Gibbons' replacement. After bouncing between the majors and Triple-A, Lind was called up for good just one day after Gaston was hired; he would play regularly the rest of the way, which appeared to be just the kind of stability Lind needed.
He collected five hits in his first three games and went on to hit .296 with nine homers and 40 RBIs over the rest of the season (307 at-bats). The young slugger credited Gaston with helping him out of his major league slump; the veteran manager worked with Lind upon his arrival to develop a major league approach to his at-bats.
Table: Adam Lind's career statistics, including minor leagues (2004-08)
Lind has accomplished about as much as he can in the minors. He has a .318 career minor league average, with a home run in every 28.7 at-bats. He also moved quickly through the Jays system, earning his first major league at-bats when he was 23.
Toronto believes Lind can eventually slot into the fourth or fifth spot in their lineup. His strong all-around numbers would suggest he could fill that role, though he doesn't have great eye for the ball. This, in turn, could lead to prolonged slumps.
However, his fly-ball rate has decreased significantly in each of the last two seasons while his ground-ball rate has increased. This suggests he is taking a more calculated approach at the plate. His power is still there, however - his line drive rate has been steady for the last three years - he just isn't trying to swing for the fences as much.
Snider is arguably the Blue Jays' best left-handed hitting prospect since former first baseman Carlos Delgado entered the system in the early 1990s. Toronto's general manager, J.P. Ricciardi, veered from his usual policy of avoiding high school players when he took Snider directly out of high school with the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Like Delgado in the early '90s, Snider hasn't taken much time to work his way through the minors.
Table: Travis Snider's career statistics, including minor leagues (2004-08)
An ailing elbow contributed to Snider's slow start at high Class A Dunedin last year (.279-4-7 in 61 at-bats), though it didn't stop him from making it all the way to majors by the end of the season.
However, a few signs point to a slide this year. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was an astounding .417 in the majors last year. Although his BABIP has been at least .371 at all but one stop during his career, it stands to reason he should expect it to come down next year, which will lower his expected average.
Snider hasn't demonstrated a great batting eye during his rise from rookie ball. Like Lind, this could leave him prone to slumps if he can't develop a more patient approach. He has a simple swing and great bat speed, which should help him to hit for a respectable average even while he develops.
A few other notes: Snider struggles against lefties, his power is legit with a ridiculous line-drive rate, and he needs to do a better job hitting off-speed pitches.
Although he has developed faster than any other Jays prospect in recent memory, Snider is still only 20 years old (21 once the season starts). His mechanics are well-developed for someone of his age, but there likely will be growing pains as he matures in the bigs.
Playing at the Rogers Centre should favor Lind and Snider, who are both lefties; power trends at the park lean toward lefties, even more so than righties. This stayed true with Lind last year as he hit for a higher average at home than on the road and smacked more doubles and just as many home runs in fewer home at-bats than he did outside Canada.
The Blue Jays offense still lacks a true leadoff hitter, but there are some encouraging signs for the coming season:
The Jays offense last year also improved under Gaston and hitting coach Gene Tenace as both preached a more aggressive approach at the plate than did former manager Gibbons. With a full spring training to work with the hitters, especially the young guys, their offense could buck a downward trend from the last three years.
If Toronto's offense can improve, it would go a long way to giving the younger hitters more protection and would be a boon to their fantasy numbers.
Fantasy baseball outlook
Heading into the upcoming season, Gaston has stated he prefers Lind at designated hitter and Snider in the outfield, though Lind will also receive some work at first base in the spring.
Both are being drafted in the late rounds of mixed drafts, going in the vicinity of the 19th round. For Lind, this appears to be fair value if you are looking for an upside outfielder, especially if he develops multi-position eligibility. He showed last year he can hit in the majors, and with the Jays viewing this as a gap year, he should receive close to a full workload. Don't draft him as anything more than a No. 5 outfielder, though.
Snider is a different case. It would be foolish to think he'll match his pace from last year over the course of a full season. In mixed leagues, owners should avoid him at this spot, though he could be worth a flier if you can get him in the final few rounds. That is a big IF, however, as another owner may be willing to jump on him. It all depends on how conservative you are - if you like to draft young players with upside to fill out your roster, as most do, Snider is an intriguing pick, though he seems even less likely to pan out this season.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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