Snider vs. Delgado
I’ll start by saying that I don’t believe in AAAA players. Other than the incredible rarity, most guys experience the exact same bump on their way to the big leagues. Unless you can’t control the strike zone to save your life, almost everyone performs slightly worse in the majors than they do in AAA — provided they are given enough time and opportunity to make the adjustment.
How big is that bump? Back in 1985, Bill James estimated it at 18%, a number which has been debated but is still pretty close. So let’s say that the Jays had just stuck Travis Snider in AAA to rot until he was 24, no matter how ‘ready’ he seemed to be during his first cup of coffee. What would his numbers down there have been? Here’s a straight-up ugly translation of what the major league numbers that made him a 24-year-old ‘bust’ in the majors would on average have translated to in AAA:
|Travis Snider Developed The Old Way|
Whoah, what a prospect!! Except for his 2012 season, in which we’re only looking at 50 games — but If you add Snider’s actual AAA numbers that year and divide by two (highly scientific, I know), he’s back to ‘reasonably exciting’ with a slash line of .296/.355/.799. (Update: it turns out pretty much the same if you merge the two after applying the 18% boost to his major-league numbers: .300/.340/.755)
So now here’s another guy that we actually DID let rot in AAA until he was 24:
|Carlos Delgado’s Development|
That would be….Carlos Delgado, also known as the greatest Blue Jays slugger of all time. My point here is obviously not that Travis Snider is going to turn into 90% of Carlos Delgado. It’s that at this point in his career, which has been incredibly badly handled to this point, there is just no real way to say that he won’t. If we had popped Delgado up and down while changing his swing, don’t tell me there isn’t a chance he would have put up marginally lesser numbers and then struggled terribly for half a season in the bigs at 23. In which case at Snider’s age they would have been very comparable — and trading Carlos Delgado for the 1996 equivalent of Brad Lincoln would have been a franchise-crippling move.
Incidentally, even Delgado’s 24-year-old rookie season wasn’t much more impressive than what Snider is doing now in his. Delgado hit .270 with 25 dongs and an OPS of .843 (in his extremely limited time in the bigs so far in 2012, Snider is hitting .250, on pace for 42 HR with over as many plate appearances as Delgado). Nobody lost their mind that over his first four years and 700 whole plate appearances in the majors (Snider currently has 4.1 and 900 PA), Delgado hit .246 with an OPS no better than league average.
But that was a different time…before the hype machine overexposed young players and raised their immediate expectations ludicrously high — and back when the Jays had enough depth that they didn’t need to have their most precious assets forgo prudent development at AAA in order to fill immediate holes on the major-league team. I miss that time. And I’ll bet that Anthony Gose and Henderson Alvarez are going to be the next ones to suffer for having missed it as well.