Daan De Kerpel - TSN.ca
While the upcoming trade of Matt Stairs officially runs the white flag up on the Blue Jays 2008 season, there's reason for Jays' fans to get excited. By designating Stairs for assignment on Thursday, the club opened a spot on their roster for Travis Snider.
Snider is a 20-year old right fielder whom the Blue Jays selected with the 14th pick in the 2006 draft. He's widely viewed by most minor-league experts to easily be the best prospect in the Jays system.
This season, in Double-A and Triple-A, he's hitting a combined .275 with 23 home runs and 91 RBI. His on-base percentage is a very solid .358. The only downside would be the 154 strikeouts he has accumulated in 487 at-bats.
It should be noted that during his recent call up to Triple-A, Snider had a .344 average in 18 games with two home runs and 17 RBI.
Is Snider going to drastically change the Jays future this season? No, he won't, but to be fair, neither would Matt Stairs.
By giving Snider a chance to play to end the season, the Jays are going to see what they have. If Snider performs well, that's great. If he struggles, he still gets valuable on the job training and will know what he needs to work on for 2009.
Teams in baseball are now giving a lot of their younger players a chance, and that's out of need because all around the game there are players in their mid-30's that are seemingly experiencing bigger drop offs in performance than that group had in the early 2000s.
Proof of this youth movement can been see from players in the 2005 and 2006 drafts.
Fourteen of the top 30 picks in the 2005 draft - Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Jeff Clement, Jeff Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Jay Bruce, Lance Broadway, Chris Volstad, Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hanson, Joey Devine - that have played in the Majors to different levels of success.
Braun has established himself as one of the best power-hitters in the game. Zimmerman and Tulowitzki both had great 2007 seasons, but have struggled with injuries this year. Pelfrey is 13-8 with a 3.70 ERA for the New York Mets, and Ellsbury helped the Red Sox to the World Series last season.
The 2006 Draft, which is Snider's class, features Luke Hochevar, Evan Longoria, Brandon Morrow, Andrew Miller, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer and Ian Kennedy as first rounders that already have MLB experience. Lincecum leads the MLB in strikeouts and the National League in ERA. Longoria, who recently got hurt, has established himself as a mainstay for the Rays.
Now, not all the players listed above have been stars or will be stars, but the idea of using the kids is sound. Why pay millions of dollars to a veteran whose production can be matched or bettered by a youngster who will make well under a million dollars for the first three years?
The Jays will have a lot questions going into 2009, but by using Snider now, they should at least have some answers there. Best case scenario: he shows that at 20 years old he's ready to bring his powerful bat to the Show. Worst case: he's overmatched and needs more seasoning in Triple-A.
Either way, the winds of change seem to be blowing in Major League Baseball and it's nice to see the Jays putting their sails up.