DUNEDIN, Fla. — This spring is Travis Snider’s first serious chance at finding a full-season home in the Toronto Blue Jays’ outfield after failing to take last year’s opportunity seriously.
“He has to play his way onto this team,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.
“He’s a young player and he knows that. I told him in the off-season he’s going to be a big part of this organization. That being said, he knows he’s got to go out and perform in spring training.
“But if he doesn’t make it as an everyday player, he’ll go down. He flew through the minor leagues and has not had a lot of minor league at-bats, and that’s a credit to his ability. So if he’s going to be up here it’s going to be to play every single day,” Anthopoulos said.
Snider did well in the spring as a 21-year-old a year ago and hit the regular season running: three home runs, 11 runs batted in, a .258 batting average and .480 on-base percentage in April.
But he slumped in May and was demoted to Triple-A.
“I went through some mental troubles that, from a baseball standpoint, I’d never had to deal with — failing and being sent down,” Snider said. “I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to turn on that switch every day. You watch successful guys, how their concentration never changes.
“Adjustments at this level are key. I stopped making adjustments at the end of April and the beginning of May and for a while at Triple-A (following his May 19 demotion). I was reluctant to listen to some people. They were trying to help me and I backed myself into a corner.”
Toronto’s first-round draft pick out of high school in 2006 hit .345 average with 11 home runs in the rookie league in 2007 before charging through the minors and into the Blue Jays’ dugout in August 2008.
He wasn’t prepared for failure. He had no home runs, one RBI and a .216 average in May last season. Being sent down, he said, “was the best thing that could’ve happened to a young man learning how to grow up.”
Now, Snider has a chance to take a prominent role in the Blue Jays’ infusion of youth as they attempt to rebound from fourth place, a losing record, and their worst season since 2005.