By JAY LeBLANC
It’s supposed to get harder to put up numbers as you move up the minor league ladder, but somebody apparently forgot to tell Baltimore Orioles prospect Brandon Snyder. After struggling with injuries in his first full pro season in 2006, Snyder hit .283 with 11 homers and 58 RBI in Class A in 2007. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound first baseman followed that up by finishing second in the advanced Class A Carolina League in average (.315) last season while increasing his home run and RBI totals to 13 and 80 respectively. It took only 58 games for the Orioles to realize that Double-A Eastern League pitchers were no match for Snyder. The 22-year-old was promoted to the Norfolk Tides on Thursday after hitting .343 with 10 homers and 45 RBI for the Bowie Baysox, and he’ll make his Triple-A debut Friday night.
It’s always been clear that Snyder - the son of former Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics pitcher Brian Snyder - can hit, but finding a defensive home for him was another story. The Orioles tried him out as a catcher after drafting him 13th overall out of Westfield High School in Centreville, Va., in 2005, but his inability to stay healthy early in his pro career put an end to that. He saw some action at third base in 2005 and 2006, but by 2007 he was spending most of his time across the diamond at first. Snyder is still a work in progress at first base, but his defensive shortcomings won’t be all that difficult to overlook if he continues his steady progression as a hitter.
I had the chance to speak with Snyder - the Orioles’ No. 9 prospect, according to Baseball America - Tuesday night after he and his now former Baysox teammates beat the Philadelphia Phillies-affiliated Reading Phillies 3-2 at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, Md.
Q: Your father pitched for the Mariners and A’s in the ‘80s. How much did he help your development as a baseball player?
A: A ton. I think, for him, a lot of it had to do with the mental side of the game - understanding how long of a season it is and being able to keep yourself physically and mentally prepared to go out and play. He’s always been a good shoulder to lean on and if something’s ever wrong with my swing, he doesn’t even have to be here and he can kind of help me walk through it, so it’s always been good.
Q: You made great strides at the plate last year after longtime hitting coach Richie Hebner took over as Frederick’s manager. What are some of the things he helped you with?
A: You know, just being consistent. Early in the season I put together good stretches, then I’d be bad for a while. At the end I kind of got on a consistent basis where I gradually improved throughout the year, and he just kind of stuck with me through it.
Q: Do you step into the batter’s box with a plan, or do you just trust your reactions?
A: I go up with a plan until there’s two strikes, and then it’s all about, you know, just being quick and seeing a strike and hitting it. Like tonight - they pounded me in, and I had to look for a pitch on the plate. If it’s in, I’ve got to take it, but if it’s on the plate, make sure I get my hands out. It changes every night, changes every at bat, but yeah, I go up with a plan.
Q: You’ve played exclusively first base this season but you’ve also seen time at catcher and third base as a pro. Do you think you’ve found a home at first?
A: I believe so. I think this is where I fit with the organization and I think this is my best chance to play in the big leagues. And that’s what it’s always been about; I haven’t ever really worried about where I’ve played as long as I’m in the lineup.
Q: What kinds of things do you do off the field to prepare you to succeed on it?
A: I really try to take care of myself, from the way that I eat to the way that I work out. I always try to keep in good shape, and over the course of the season it’s tough to do, you know, being on the road, always eating out and stuff like that. But that’s something I really stay on myself about.
Q: What are some of your goals for this season?
A: Just to continue to have a good year. I’d like to make the All-Star team; I don’t think I’ve made one since my rookie season, so obviously that would be great. And just to finish strong. If I get a chance to go up and play at a higher level then so be it. If not, then go to winter ball and make sure I work so next year I can.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model yourself after?
A: You know, it’s hard to say. When I played other positions I always did. When I played short I always liked Cal Ripken - a big shortstop. As a catcher I liked to be a Javy Lopez-type guy. I haven’t really found one at first base yet but I always try to watch the guys on TV - they’re there for a reason.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Orioles?
A: Whenever they’re ready for me. I feel like I’m getting better every day. There’s stuff I need to work on and I’m going about it every day. It’s just about being able to be prepared when the time comes. It’s very hard to put a time on it, because who knows what’ll happen? I could be up there tomorrow or I could be up there in two years - you never know. But as long as I keep progressing and keep playing, hopefully it’ll work out for the best.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s:
2009 - Jack McGeary, Nationals; L.J. Hoes, Orioles; Jordan Danks, White Sox; Mike Moustakas, Royals; Danny Duffy, Royals; Kyle Skipworth, Marlins; Xavier Avery, Orioles; Ryan Kalish, Red Sox; Derek Norris, Nationals; Zach Britton, Orioles; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Robbie Grossman, Pirates; Brandon Waring, Orioles; Casey Kelly, Red Sox; Michael Taylor, Phillies.
2008 - Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Fernando Martinez, Mets; Derrick Robinson, Royals; David Hernandez, Orioles; Jason Castro, Astros; Bobby Parnell, Mets; George Kontos, Yankees; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Austin Jackson, Yankees; Jeff Bianchi, Royals; Cole Rohrbough, Braves; Pat Venditte, Yankees.