Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mr. Mustache vs. Senor Sideburns

At the beginning of the 2011 season Travis Snider was one of many sleeper picks in fantasy leagues and was predicted by many Jays fans to finally have a break out season, he was always a top prospect he just hadn't put it all together. The prior year in 2010 Travis Snider showed many improving skills such as his expected but unseen power, but his play was limited due to an injury which kept him out for a major part of the season. Despite his injury he still managed to be a slightly above average player with a 105 wRC+ in the 82 games that he played.

At the beginning of the 2011 season Eric Thames was a 24 year old who had just had a great season at AA New Hampshire. In 2010 he hit 27 home runs and had a .370 OBP, which was good for a .896 OPS a number that marked third in the Eastern League and ahead of such prospects as Anthony Rizzo, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Danny Espinosa . In that year he had good power, he hit for good average, but his defense still wasn't great and he wasn't thought to be a very toolsy player shown by his 7th round draft choice.

These two guys are obviously two very different players, but can also be considered one in the same. Both are young outfielders and both were candidates to be sent down to Vegas so that the Blue Jays could bring up Brett Lawrie. In the end the decision was to send Travis Snider down.

Analyzing the Demotion
To an uneducated Blue Jays fan it may have seemed like an obvious choice to send down Travis Snider since his 2011 slash line of .225/.269/.348 is far inferior to that of Eric Thames at .270/.313/.455. But Travis Snider is still the top prospect and the Jays have stated that they want him to be there everyday left fielder and many others believe the same. So for Alex Anthopolous it couldn't have been an easy decision to make.

If they wanted they could have benched Edwin Encarnacion and just put Thames at DH (where he really should be), but Edwin is on the verge of Type B status and we all know how much AA values those draft picks. If he's going to buy one then he will definitely send down Snider for one. Another possibility I could have seen would have been buying out Mark Teahen and then having both Snider and Thames share at bats in left field with both playing when EE gets the day off. It would seem to be a good option, but I guess Rogers didn't want to fully break the bank and buyout the 5.5 million that Mark Teahen still has on that horrid contract.

In the end I think that they made the wrong decision in sending down one of the two outfielders as they both deserved major league at bats. But if they had to choose one of the two it should have been Eric Thames Yes, Thames may be hitting better this season, but it isn't like the Blue Jays are contending this season and need the hot hitter. They are looking for 2012 and beyond and despite his hot hitting in both the minors and the majors Eric Thames doesn't seem to be the option. Who knows Travis Snider could very well become the next Corey Patterson, but then he could also become a superstar, he has the potential and Eric Thames just does not.

The only reasoning I could possibly see for sending down Thames over Snider is the possible backlash from Jays fans. Because the reasoning that they gave to "tweak" his swing just isn't enough. The first time Snider was sent down this year it was exactly the same thing and how did that work, well he actually hit worse with a .670 OPS prior to his demotion and a .522 after the call up. So if it wasn't working the first time then what would lead them to believe it would work this time. The answer is it probably won't, so then why not keep Snider on the big league team where he can work with Dwayne Murphy and the other coaches. The Jays have stated that they want him to be part of their future so why not take steps to do so, give the guy some major league at bats and have him for the future don't stuff him in the minors where he has shown he can't improve.

Looking into the Future
Obviously I would love to see both Thames and Snider do very well in their careers, but as we know not everyone works out. Thames in a sense has the advantage because he has a lot less expected of him from both the organization and knowledgeable Jays fans because he is some 7th round miracle, where as Travis is the 1st round top prospect who has yet to pan out.

I would like to see the Jays keep the both of them past this season and get Eric Thames some at bats for next season at DH with Snider presumably in left. But if you want to capitaliza on Thames' good play then why not sell high. Thames may appear to be hitting well, but he is swinging at way too many pitches and not taking enough walks, so it would appear as if his average will surely drop play. He may very well be an everyday big leaguer some day, but right now he projects to be a good 4th outfielder something the Jays will have a lot of.

More Production at the Plate
This season both Snider and Thames have had more than adequete time to show off their stuff, but neither has yet to show us anything too special. With the likes of Darin Mastroianni, Moises Sierra, Adam Loewen, Jake Marisnick, Marcus Knecht, and of course Anthony Gose all pushing to get to the big leagues Thames and Snider are going to have to step it up.

Snider will keep getting the chances because he is the top prospect, but in order for him to secure a spot he's going to have to bring back his power and start walking again since this year Travis' ISO has dropped a whopping 85 points and he hasn't registered a walk since before his initial demotion. As well despite having played in twice as many games this season over his initial call up in 2008, Travis has actually produced less WAR. There is still the encouraging numbers from last season when Snider hit 14 homers and had a .331 wOBA over 82 games, but the numbers are still nothing compared to what was initially projected for the young phenom.

As for Eric Thames he better heat back up again if he wants to stay on the major league roster because despite his encouraging numbers over the 2011 season in the past 15 days he has hit to a lack luster .173 batting average with 11 K's, which includes a couple Golden Sombreros. Also unlike Snider, Eric Thames doesn't have his defense to lean back on shown by his -5.4 UZR/150 this year and Eric is just generally regarded as someone who can't really play the field. If Eric wants to stay on the MLB roster he is going to have to heat up again and hit like he did towards the end of June.

Either way despite both guys having their positives, they will not be able to rely on them for much longer due to the fact that their is just so many guys pushing for that last spot. If they want to stay in the MLB both Snider and Thames are going to have to take major steps to improve.

Final Thoughts
Overall it has been nice to see the "competition" between these two young players as they fight for the now what seems to be one remaining outfield spot after the trade for Colby Rasmus and the call up of Brett Lawrie. It has been nice to see them both get the playing time they have deserved and it will be even better once rosters are expanded in September at which time Travis Snider would be presumably called up and take some major league at bats.

As for after the season I gave my thoughts before stating that I would rather see Snider long term as he has shown more potential and apparently the Blue Jays agree because they have stated that they want Snider long term. Though what hasn't been said is whether he will play in the outfield or at DH (if he ever learns to hit in the big leagues) because he looks to have some competition within a couple years at the "one" remaining outfield position.

Any Opinions, Arguments, or Criticisms? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. love all BJ's except Ryan7 August 2011 at 14:20

    Agree with everything said. One comment though, Thames as 7th round pick was only due to injury as he was projected 1st rounder before he pulled his quad running hard to beat a throw.

  2. Right thanks for that I forgot to add that, but still after the scouts saw him play in the minors they dropped him quite a bit in terms of projecting what he could become

  3. MG,

    I believe Snider is a prototypical AAAA player. There are the tools, but the mental part of the game escapes him. And has repeatedly over the last four years where his ability and draft status gets him a look. But on close look, the management just doesn't see the development needed in the mind game. They keep smacking the mule, but it doesn't respond. The only solution is a ticket out of town (which explains the 'optimism for the future').
    Thames probably isn't the answer either. He's been unproductive outside of the cocoon of batting between Escobar and Bautista (remember Corey Patterson had like numbers in that slot, too), and he's got defensive deficiencies. That said, until money, trades or a draft pick emerging, Thames and Davis can man left.
    AA promised Encarnacion 600 ABs this year and a growing rep as a man of his word is worth future karma points for Toronto, far outstripping the value of having Snider AND Thames average seven outs apiece daily in the line-up ... to get experience. And a Type B finish to E3's season would be the first karmic pay-off.
    Lastly, after running down Snider for most of a comment, it wouldn't shock me at all to see him go elsewhere and do okay, maybe even well. Murphy certainly has had a beneficial effect on many a Blue Jay hitter. But not all players respond to his coaching style. Aaron Hill, for example, will probably do better than okay next year with a different voice in his head. Problem is, it'll be elsewhere.
    Thanks for an interesting post. GM

  4. An option for Snider next year could be as primary DH, similar to Lind's break-out year. Just focus on the bat, son. If he falls flat with that, enjoy a long-term ticket out of town, Vegas or trade. Likewise with Thames, if Snider nails down a spot in left.

  5. Why not next spring, have the best of Snider and Thames come out of the competition, then demote the other...unless of course there's a vacancy at DH where Thames could slide into.

    Another thought is to pick up E5's option, let him produce in 2012, and maybe get a type A. Is that possible?

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