After a painfully quiet offseason for Orioles fans, on Tuesday Baltimore acquired OF Travis Snider from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Stephen Tarpley and a Player To Be Named Later. Snider will attempt to fill one of the spots vacated when Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz signed free agent contracts elsewhere earlier this offseason.
The 27-year-old left-handed hitter was a former 1st round pick, 14th overall, in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. After a meteoric rise through the Blue Jays system, Snider found himself in the big leagues less than 2 years later at age 20. Snider struggled through his five seasons in Toronto, occasionally showing flashes of brilliance around mostly underwhelming offensive numbers before a trade in 2013 to Pittsburgh.
But last season Snider began to finally fulfill some of his former offensive promise, batting .264/.338/.438 with 13 home runs for the Pirates. Furthermore, Snider was particularly outstanding in the 2nd half, slugging .288/.356/.524 in 188 plate appearances. However, the projections do not expect this breakout to continue, as Baseball Prospectus forecasted Snider to hit .250/.314/.387 with 8 home runs in 328 plate appearances for Pittsburgh this season.
Defensively Snider has split time in both corner outfield spots, with the numbers showing a quality, above-average defender in left field, grading below-average in right field. Scheduled to earn $2.1 million this season, Snider is under team control through the 2016 season.
In exchange for Snider, the Orioles were forced to part with left-handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley, Baltimore’s 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft. Selected out of an Arizona community college, the nearly 22-year-old Tarpley posted solid numbers in 2014 at Aberdeen of the New York Penn League, providing the IronBirds with a 3.68 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 66 innings pitched. A well-built 6-1 180lbs, Tarpley was ranked as Baltimore’s #9 prospect by Baseball Prospectus this offseason.
In search of a scouting report on Tarpley, I contacted Baseball Prospectus Prospect Team member Tucker Blair, who knows Orioles prospects as well as anyone I know. Thankfully he responded with these thoughts:
“Tarpley was one of my sleepers in the O’s system, and began to flash this raw talent last season with Aberdeen. I saw two starts from Tarpley, and came away fairly intrigued. The fastball held velocity into the 5th and 6th innings during both starts, and he touched a lot of 94s and 95s throughout the outing. The lefty’s arm is loose and the fastball has armside movement. The mechanics have long been a concern of scouts and evaluators I have talked with, but he has definitely cleaned them up since being drafted. I imagine the mechanical progression is also a reason why he was a 2nd year JUCO guy still pitching in short-season ball, but nonetheless he is a talented arm. I have concerns with the overall command of his arsenal, and the CB and CH still lag behind for me. However, this is a fresh arm and I wouldn’t be shocked if he shoots through the Pirates’ system now.”- Tucker Blair, Baseball Prospectus
Overall I tend to like this deal for both teams, as the Orioles have done well in recent years finding similarly underappreciated assets (i.e. Steve Pierce, Nate McLouth, and Delmon Young) and Snider fills a major need for Baltimore as a left-handed power bat with defensive versatility. As for the Pirates, they clear some payroll and receive a pitching prospect with potential in Tarpley, along with another player, in return for a hitter who would struggle to find playing time in Pittsburgh.
Both teams are trading somewhat extra pieces and gambling that what they receive will have more value to them than what they parted with – as a gambler myself, I would wager the Orioles and manager Buck Showalter use Snider in a proper platoon and he swats 15+ homers for Baltimore next season, which would make this one of the better values of the winter.Next post: Assessing the Devin Mesoraco Extension
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