Blue Jays still believe in Snider
Ricciardi has no regrets over handling of rookie outfielder
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays don't have any regrets about how they have handled rookie Travis Snider this season. After making Toronto's Opening Day roster, the young outfielder is back in the Minor Leagues, sorting through the offensive issues that led to his recent demotion.
There is a school of thought that says keeping highly touted prospects such as Snider in the Minor Leagues to begin a season is beneficial for their development. Just this week, Baltimore promoted catcher Matt Wieters and Tampa Bay called up pitcher David Price after holding them back for nearly two months.
On Sunday, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said he still believes the organization made the right decision by beginning the season with the 21-year-old Snider on the big league roster.
"We took the best team we wanted to in April," Ricciardi said. "Travis had a great Spring Training and deserved to be on the team. This is part of his development. There's no predictor that every guy is going to come here and stay here."
Wieters and Price aren't the only top prospects who have been retained in the Minors at a season's onset before receiving a promotion to the Majors.
In 2007, the Brewers kept outfielder Ryan Braun in the Minors until late May, and last season the Rays kept third baseman Evan Longoria at Triple-A until mid-April. In both cases, Braun and Longoria went on to win their respective league's Rookie of the Year honor. Wieters and Price are considered leading candidates for the AL Rookie of the Year Award this season.
The hope is that, when a player is held back to begin a season, he will have developed enough to be able to stay in the big leagues for the rest of that campaign. Earlier this week, Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, cited Snider's situation when asked if Wieters was expected to remain with the Orioles for the rest of the year.
"We think Wieters is ready," MacPhail was quoted as saying in the Toronto Sun. "We don't want to be like Toronto with Snider and return the player to the Minors."
Another factor that plays a role in a team's decision to hold a top prospect back is that approach can delay when the players become eligible for salary arbitration or free agency. Ricciardi said that wasn't taken into consideration when it came to adding Snider to the roster at the end of Spring Training.
"Teams hold guys back hoping to get the extra year, but we brought Travis up in April," Ricciardi said. "If he stays down for two months now, we get the extra year. I don't think you sit there and say, 'Hey, we want to hold this guy back.' You take the best players and then, if it works out, they stay here forever. If they don't, they go back.
"I don't get caught up in the whole, 'Oh, we better hold this guy back, because we control him' [attitude]. I think what you want to do is take your best players and, if they have to go back down, they go back down. You can still get that time back a couple months down the road."
That being said, Ricciardi said Snider won't necessarily remain with Triple-A Las Vegas for two months. The Jays want Snider to play regularly until he shows improvement over his recent showing with Toronto, which was only using him against right-handed pitchers. Ricciardi said there is no established timetable for Snider's return to the Jays.
"It's all about development," Ricciardi said. "It's all about him adjusting to some of the things he wasn't doing up here and getting regular at-bats. We weren't giving him regular at-bats. He wasn't playing against lefties -- it was more of a platoon situation. He's a young kid. He shouldn't be in that spot. He should play, and that's what we want him to do."
Snider, the 14th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, earned a spot on Toronto's Opening Day roster as a left fielder after hitting .381 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 22 games in the spring. That success carried over into April, when Snider hit at a .310 slip with three homers and 10 RBIs over his first 14 games.
In the next 18 contests, though, Snider batted just .193 (11-for-57) with no home runs and only two RBIs. Snider said he had a hard time getting used to playing in a platoon-like situation, and he struggled with his approach and swing mechanics at various points. That being the case, the Jays decided to option him to Triple-A on May 22.
"That's why you have three options," Ricciardi said. "If you were supposed to get to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues, you'd have no options. Every player in this game, as a young player, has probably been sent down.
"He's going to be a really good player. He just needs to play."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.