2016 Fantasy Baseball: Prospect Profile — Blake Snell
The emergence of Rays left-handed starter Blake Snell has been one of the most fascinating prospect developments to follow over these past couple years. He was incredibly raw when the Rays drafted him 52nd overall in 2011 with their supplemental first round pick, but has made tremendous strides in his game each year in their farm system. Snell has continued to see improvements in his overall command and has really turned himself into one of the premier pitching prospects in the game seemingly out of nowhere.
The 23 year-old tends to sit between 92-94MPH with his fastball, but he can run the radar gun up to 96-97MPH as well. That fastball is probably the pitch that Snell has the best command with right now, and his late-life and deceptive delivery has always given him the coveted ability to miss bats. His slider is a plus pitch as well with very sharp movement, and his changeup, though still a work-in-progress, has plus potential as well with a fastball-like arm speed and sinking movement to make the pitch dip out of the zone.
Last year, Blake Snell was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and found himself listed on their Top-100 Prospects list for the first time in his career. Snell sits at #12 just ahead of Mets pitcher Steven Matz on Baseball America’s 2016 list, and he is also one spot ahead of Matz on MLB.com’s rankings as well. Snell is currently the #2 lefthanded pitching prospect in all of baseball and is ranked #14 overall after not being on MLB.com’s list at all the year prior. Snell was drafted right out of high school in Shoreline, Washington in 2011, and he has steadily improved each year of his pro-career before his astounding breakout in 2015.
Although Snell does not have great control at the moment, he has been getting better at improving his walk-rate from year to year. Snell started the 2015 season with a 46-consecutive innings scoreless streak between A+ and AA and was totally dominant across all three levels of the minors he played at last year. He finished the season with the best ERA among qualifying starters in all of the minor leagues at 1.41 which was the lowest mark since Justin Verlander way back in 2005. Snell also posted the fourth-highest strikeout total with 163 Ks in 134 innings and showed some really easy velocity whenever he needed it.
One aspect of Snell’s game that excites scouts most in his rare ability to both miss bats and cause ground balls at phenomenal rates. He was able to get his K/9 mark up to 11.57 in Triple-A, proving he is just about big league ready. Snell was also one of the Rays representatives in the 2015 Futures game that featured current Major Leaguers such as Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto, and he was perfect in his lone inning of work.
Projection & Prediction
Considering what Snell accomplished in 2015, and what he was able to do in the highest level of Minor League Baseball in nine starts with Triple-A Durham, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Snell begins the 2016 season with the big league club. He has impressed at every stop of his pro-career thus far and has done just about everything that the Rays have asked him of gim. At this point, it appears he has nothing left to prove in the minors, and the youngster will get a real close look in Spring Training with a very strong chance of making the team.
The Rays do have an extremely successful track record for developing pitching in their farm system, particularly when it comes to left-handed pitchers. Scott Kazmir, Matt Moore, and David Price are just a few of the lefties to debut with the Rays and make a splash in the big leagues, and Snell has the talent and make up to be the next guy on that list. Even if he doesn’t win a spot on the starting staff outright, it won’t be long until we get to see Blake Snell up in the show.