|Travis Snider (photo via Tom Hagerty)|
What the Orioles Received
Travis Snider was the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft. As a top prospect, Snider absolutely crushed the ball during his time in the minors, hitting a combined .309/.383/.525 in 2200 plate appearances across all levels. That success in the minors never really carried over to the majors though, as he basically resembled a typical quad-A player (someone too good for AAA, but not good enough for the majors). Here’s what Snider has been able to do over the course of his major league career.
The overall numbers aren’t too encouraging, but the good news is that 2014 was his best season by far, as he produced career marks in almost every offensive category. So which version of Travis Snider will the Orioles get in 2015? On one hand, it’s hard to ignore the rather sizable sample of Snider’s struggles prior to last year. On the other, Snider just had a much better season at the plate than the recently departed Nick Markakis (albeit in less PA’s) and is a former top prospect that will only turn 27 in the next week. After several years of being one of the best outfielders in baseball, it’s easy to forget that Alex Gordon struggled on offense until his age 27 season. I’m not saying Snider will have an Alex Gordon type breakout, but some guys take a little bit longer to figure it out.
Having said that, Snider may not even be an everyday player. Back in December, Matt looked at a rumored deal that would have sent Brian Matusz to the Pirates in exchange for Snider and took a quick look at Snider’s possible platoon issues. While his overall splits don’t scream “platoon player”, there are legitimate reasons to believe Snider is not a good option against left-handers, including a strikeout rate over 33% and the fact that he hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to even face left-handed pitching (277 career PA’s).
Earlier in the offseason, we here at Camden Depot stated that an outfield consisting of Jones/Pearce/De Aza/Lough actually wouldn’t be much worse than 2014’s group. However, it’s not unreasonable to think that this group (minus Jones) has a higher chance to disappoint (especially offensively) than not, so picking up Snider as another outfield option was a nice move by the front office to hedge their bets. Additionally, Snider doesn’t cost much (he signed for $2.1 million in 2014) and is under team control next year as well. It’s a good pickup, especially when considering that both De Aza and Pearce will be free agents after the season.
What the Orioles Gave Up
In order to get Snider, the Orioles gave up left-handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a “player to be named later”. Tarpley was the Orioles 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft out of Scottsdale Community College. He spent all last season pitching in Aberdeen (Short Season A-Ball), sporting a 3.66 ERA over 66.1 innings, while striking out 60 and walking 24.
This offseason, Tarpley was rated by Baseball Prospectus as the Orioles 9th best prospect (subscription required and recommended). Essentially, Tarpley shows good stuff on the mound, but he lacks polish on his command and his secondary pitches. BP’s prospect team sees him as having the ceiling of a number 3 or 4 starter, but a more realistic role of a 6th inning reliever/long man in the bullpen. So while he does have a higher ceiling than some of the pitchers ahead of him on that list (pitchers not named Bundy or Harvey), he has a way to go to reach that ceiling.
The other player going to the Pirates in this deal is currently unknown, and according to Roch Kubatko of MASN, that player likely won’t be known until spring training. However, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported that left-hander Steven Brault could be the PTBNL. Brault was drafted in the 11th round of the 2013 draft and spent the 2014 season between Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick. I couldn’t find much else on him, so I asked Tucker Blair of Baseball Prospectus for some insight:
“Steven Brault is an athletic-framed lefty that was signed out of Regis University, which has never seen a player make the majors. I've seen Brault quite a few times while he was with Aberdeen, Delmarva, and Frederick. He generally sits 90-92 with average present command, but his fastball has some sink and run on it. He also has a SL, CB and CH, with the first two fringy. The CH has some deception and fade to it, and is largely the reason his numbers have been so productive throughout his first two seasons. He hides the pitch well out of his hand. Brault has enjoyed success so far in pro ball due to his loose arm and that deception, but I lean more towards him being a role 4 relief type, as I haven't seen the consistency in his mechanics and the stuff leans mostly towards the average side. There isn't a ton of room for mistakes, which I think will be exploited some at the higher levels. For now, he's an intriguing option as a backend starter type.”
Overall this trade appears to be a good one for both teams to make. Travis Snider gives the Orioles the outfielder they’ve been searching for all offseason long, at minimal cost in terms of dollars and prospects. As for Pittsburgh, they end up with one intriguing pitching prospect (possibly two) for a player who would have struggled to find at-bats next season. Baltimore fans may have preferred the Brian Matusz for Snider swap that was discussed earlier, but it’s unlikely that Baltimore will miss Tarpley (or Brault, if he is the PTBNL). Tarpley may have the ceiling of a number 3 or 4 starter, but he’ll begin the 2015 season as a 22 year old having yet to reach Low-A. In other words, it’s probably going to take a while for him to get there, if he ever does.
As a team planning on contending in 2015, Travis Snider is worth much more to the Orioles than either of the minor league players they gave up for him. Snider gives the Orioles another solid option in the outfield or off the bench. And if they’re lucky, there’s even a chance he’s more than just a solid option. When this deal was announced, our own Matt Kremnitzer asked an interesting question that's important to remember when considering this trade.
So if you had to pick the Markakis deal or the Snider trade, what would you take? I think it's Snider in a landslide.
— Matt Kremnitzer (@mattkremnitzer) January 28, 2015
If you’re being honest with yourself, I bet you probably agree with him.