The Mockingbird

Snider vs. Delgado

with 8 comments

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
 20  .355  .398  .947
 21  .284  .387  .883
 22  .301  .358  .905
 23  .265  .317  .727

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
 20  .324  .402  .982
 21  .303  .430  .954
 22  .319  .404  .945
 23  .318  .403  1.013

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.


Written by halejon

July 31, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Seriousness

8 Responses

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  1. You’d think in this era of strict pitch counts and the coddling of arm ligaments, you’d think some of the same “principles of sanity” would also apply to the development of position players?

    Do you think the ungodly hitting numbers that come out of the PCL are making a few folks in the Jays’ scouting offices forget what they’re actually looking at (aka, how does that 18% correctin apply specifically in a PCL context). No matter how well you polish a turd (Sierra), it doesn’t become Nelson Cruz overnight, even if you wish it so really really hard.


    August 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    • The thing with the Cruz comp by AA is… Doesn’t it fit better with Snider? A former high upside guy who flamed out in his early 20s only (hopefully in Snider’s case) to become a good major leaguer after age 25?


      August 1, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      • The real question is why some guys flame out and others don’t. You definitely can’t predict that from the numbers. But there is definitely a lot of evidence that how you let them develop is very key. And if you look at Tampa Bay, you see a team full of guys who were drafted/acquired as “high-ceiling young prospects,” and most of them do quite well after being promoted. So what’s the difference between that and how the Jays have been managing guys like Travis, Thames, Hutchison, Carreno, Molina, Alvarez and a bunch of other guys? Well, Tampa Bay lets their prospects really develop in the minors, and they don’t promote the until they’ve demonstrated consistent success and acquired ALL the skills needed to make the jump. They don’t promote guys who haven’t learned how to field or how to run the bases. And they don’t generally take a guy from AA straight to the majors and give up on him when he struggles.

        The Jays may have done lots to get lots of good prospects into their system, but they’ll wreck every single one of the good ones who are still left if they keep promoting them too soon, then ditching them as soon as they struggle.


        September 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      • Yep. It’s the sort of thing that is impossible to quantify but if you’ve been following the Jays you know that they have a recent string of impatient if not downright bungled prospect developments. I think a lot of it comes from the pressure to be (relatively) competitive now despite the lack of decent FA fill-ins at the major league level — the team is duped into messing with the development of their most important talent because there is just nobody better available above them. So many reasons, especially for a small-ish payroll club like the Jays, to err wayyyy on the side of caution with young guys.


        September 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    • Dear god, yes. When you’ve got pitchers that would rather be demoted to AA so they don’t have to pitch in an “arcade park”, I don’t know how you trust anything coming out of Vegas right now.

      It’s the next Moneyball, I tells yah. I thought AA had it figured out — tons of value to be found off of poor handling, unrealistic expectations, and poor sample sizes used to colour prospect evaluations. Bill James was pointing out 25 years ago that there were plenty of minor leaguers who should be in the majors and vice versa. I would trade for basically anyone under 25 who used to be a big prospect at this point. You just never know.


      August 1, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      • Pittsburgh agrees with you. Is Travis Snider the next Andy Laroche or Brandon Wood?
        Stay tuned.


        August 2, 2012 at 12:37 am

  2. […] at the Mockingbird, Jon Hale compares Travis Snider to Carlos Delgado, while longing for a time when prospects […]

  3. […] Comparing Travis to Carlos Delgado over at The Mockingbird. That is a very sobering look at a ‘failed’ prospect. […]

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