2006 was not kind to Brandon Snyder. The Orioles gave him an advanced posting in the full-season South Atlantic League, but his struggles there prompted a demotion to the short-season New York-Penn League in June. The thought was that it would give Snyder a fresh start, but he was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, struggling before a season-ending labrum tear in early August.
DOB: 11/23/86 Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 B/T: R/R
Brandon Snyder's age 19 season:
There is no denying that Brandon Snyder's stock was slipping even before his labrum injury. His plate discipline took a step backwards after he showed incredible maturity in his professional debut. While fellow 2005 first round high schoolers like Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus and Cameron Maybin looked like future superstars in full-season leagues, Brandon Snyder looked overmatched. Put simply, it is impossible to find anything to like statistically about either of his stops this past season.
Nevertheless, the difference between rookie ball and the college-trained competition that Snyder faced this season is huge and it is hardly damning that he struggled at first exposure. He has a smooth line-drive stroke from the right side and he has the potential to hit for plus average and power. Snyder does a better job of recognizing breaking balls against southpaws, but college-trained pitchers exposed a lot of holes in his current approach. The Orioles were surprised by Snyder's struggles but remain optimistic that he will succeed in 2007. He has average speed and figures to slow down a bit if he stays behind the plate, though he has good instincts on the basepaths.
Snyder's shoulder injury also means that he will spend 2007 alternating between 1B and DH. As a catcher, he has an average arm and questionable footwork and blocking skills. He does have a quick release, which helps compensate for some of his shortcomings. Those within the organization are also impressed with Snyder's work ethic and understanding of the game, and feel that his game-calling will improve with experience.
The fact that the injury was to his non-throwing shoulder means that Snyder's long-term defensive value will not be hindered- not directly, anyway. It is unfortunate that he will miss a year of defensive development; since there are scouts that were unconvinced he had the tools to stay behind the plate before he got injured. The company line, at this point, is that Snyder will shift back to catching in 2008. More likely, the Orioles will re-evaluate his situation after his shoulder has a full season to heal. There is a strong possibility that Snyder ends up at 3B in 2008, where he has the tools to be a solid defender, but will need experience.
Brandon Snyder is supposed to be fully recovered from his August surgery in time for spring training and the Orioles have hinted in the past that he is due for a return engagement to low-A Delmarva. It is possible, however, that he will get some extra time to recover in extended spring training before playing with the short-season Aberdeen Ironbirds when their season opens in June. Either way, Snyder's bat should rebound without the additional pressure of learning to be a professional catcher. Don't forget, though, that this is the same injury that severely hampered Val Majewski in 2006.
Brandon Snyder has become a much riskier prospect than the Orioles anticipated when they invested $1.7 million in him, but his ceiling as an impact big leaguer is still there.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com