Yesterday, the Orioles traded for 26 year old left handed outfielder Travis Snider now formerly of the Pirates and Blue Jays. Snider has hit .246/.310/.406 in parts of seven major league seasons. In 2014, he hit .264/.388/.438 good for a 118 OPS+. 2014 represented Snider's best ever major league season and the one in which he logged his most games played and plate appearances.
In return for Snider the Orioles have traded LHP prospect Stephen Tarpley and a Player to be Named Later . Tarpley was a third round pick in 2013 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 13 games last season with the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Tarpley is thought to have some solid upside with a good fastball and some average secondary offerings by those in the scouting world. He ranked in the top ten in some of the prospect industrial complex rankings.
Snider is under contract for 2015 for $2.1 million and his last year of arbitration is 2016, making him a free agent in 2017; he has no more minor league options.
Snider gives Buck Showalter another option for the outfield. While he is left handed, he has shown no particular predilection to hitting either left or right handed pitching in his overall career line. However, last season, he mashed lefties at .381/.435/.619 in a miniscule 47 plate appearances. He was respectable against righties at .246/.324/.411 last season which is similar to his overall career split. In this era of low run scoring, Snider posted a 110 OPS+ against righties in 2014 which is some nice production. Also, he finished the season strong hitting .288/.356/.524 overall in the second half.
Snider's 2014 shows some signs of a budding impact player. He posted his highest line drive percentage (LD%) since 2010 at 19.4 percent and his lowest ground ball percentage (GB%) —49.4 percent—since 2010. However, he hits a markedly above average amount of ground balls, 42nd out of 238 hitters with at least 350 plate appearances, which is worrisome because ground balls are the least productive type of batted ball. Also, he does not seem to hit many fly balls, 31.2 percent in 2014 (good for 179th in 2014) and 33.6 percent for his career, which with his left handed swing would play well in Camden yards if he could hit a few more.
When he does hit fly balls they go for home runs better than average, 16.5 percent HR/FB (32nd out 238 hitters) in 2014 and 13.3 percent in his career. However, he also has a very high infield fly ball rate (IFFB%) at 10.6 percent for his career and 12.7 percent in 2014 good for 43rd highest last season among the qualified batters. If he can keep hitting line drives at a higher clip and keep his HR/FB above league average he has a good shot at putting up some decent production.
Also, Snider gives the Orioles something they have lacked in past years. He is actually patient at the plate. Snider posted 9.5 percent walk rate in 2014 which was good for 67th last year among the 238 batters with at least 350 plate appearances. Also, he struck out in only 18.7 percent of his plate appearances, which was almost exactly league average at 116th out of the 238 batters. Also, Snider swung at pitches out of the zone 27.3 percent of the time in 2014 which is well below average and he made slightly above average contact overall. So he swings at good pitches to hit and often enough makes contact with them. Furthermore, Snider saw 4.00 pitches per plate appearance in 2014 which would have been the highest among Orioles hitters last season. So while Snider may not provide a thunderous bat, he does provide a different type of hitter than the Orioles have had in the past.
Snider is still young and as a former first round pick has a decent pedigree. Tarpley was well liked among some in the independent scouting circles, but according to reports the Orioles were not all that enamored with him. The Orioles basically gave a lottery ticket and an already used lottery ticket to get Snider so they did not relinquish much current value. That being said, Snider does not possess much current value himself. He will be given a shot to stick in a corner outfield spot and if he produces he could stick.
In all likelihood, Snider is one in a cavalcade of rotating corner outfielders for the Orioles in 2015 that includes Alejandro De Aza, David Lough, Steve Pearce, Delmon Young, Alex Hassan, and Chris Parmelee. Snider gives the Orioles a nice bench option and a batting profile that the Orioles have sorely lacked over the past couple of seasons. Overall, a nice pickup, but maybe not one that is going to quell any of the shouting and hand wringing over losing the big names of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.