Each week we let our light on the training but heavy on the sarcasm amateur scout loose on the internet to bring you his analysis of the hottest young talents in baseball. In addition to his amateur scout work, philanthropic endeavors, part-time crime fighting, Olympic bodybuilding, competitive curling, painting, sculpting, juggling, and occasional bird-watching, Ian Shaw co-hosts the Waiver Trolls fantasy baseball podcast which you can find in the podcast tab or on Itunes/Google Play.
The Tampa Bay Rays were universally dubbed professional teases by the fantasy baseball community for calling up highly touted pitching prospect Blake Snell for one start before sending him back down to the minors. Snell has proven himself in the Rays farm system and after what was widely considered a successful first look in the majors he is widely expected to be called up again soon. Here is what to expect based on five innings and ninety pitches:
Snell threw 90 total pitches, 53 of which were strikes. He threw first pitch strikes to 13 of the 19 batters he faced. He struck out 6, walked 1, allowed 2 hits and 1 earned run. Of the 53 strikes that Snell threw, 7 were swinging strikes (13.2%). Snell induced 8 fly balls compared to only 1 ground ball (Statistics from ESPN).
So let’s break this down. Snell has definite swing and miss stuff, as the 13.2% swinging strike rate is in line with the best numbers in the league, although this number may be a bit high as the Yankees are striking out at a high rate and have never seen the young prospect in action. The number that jumps out is the 8 fly balls to 1 ground ball rate. Snell profiles as a fly-ball pitcher and he will likely give up his share of home runs, but it would be nice to see that number come down a bit.
Snell is a lean young pitcher, which makes his live fastball all the more impressive. The rookie routinely hovered at 95-96mph with the heater. He also has what appears to be a shorter stride towards the plate, which may contribute to having a larger break on his curveball since he is more upright, but that’s just speculation and we’ll talk more about the curve in a minute.
Snell pounded the top of the zone with his fastball and for the most part got away with it. He kept the ball in the yard but could very easily have allowed a two run homer to A-Rod in the first if Desmond Jennings hadn’t have saved his bacon with a leaping grab at the wall. Snell’s reliance on the fastball and tendency to pitch it up is a big reason he gave up so many fly balls and it would be a smart move for him to trust his breaking stuff a little more, but again I’m nitpicking *slaps wrist*.
Snell’s curveball is looping and has a large, knee shattering break. It could become a valuable out pitch for him, but Snell has to be careful to maintain a consistent delivery. On more than one occasion it looked as though the young gun was speeding up his delivery with the fastball relative to a smoother delivery with the curve. I’m probably being overly critical on the rookie but I’m sure I won’t hurt his feelings unduly (If I do then I apologize and have a hug in reserve).
Snell has a plus fastball and a plus curveball. He is going to give up a lot of home runs if he doesn’t trend lower with his location, and even then the fastball may be straight enough where it still gets teed up. Like most rookies he can do a better job with pitch efficiency but that often comes with age. All in all if he can maintain a consistent delivery and limit his reliance on the blow-it-by you fastball as his strikeout pitch then I see a possible ace in the making. The downside would be a Hector Santiago/Marco Estrada type, but with better strikeout potential.
Featured Image: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports