Since getting drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round in 2006, outfielder Travis Snider had led a charmed baseball life.
After batting a combined .307 with 27 home runs and 134 RBIs in his first two seasons, all Snider did last year — at the tender age of 20 — was plow through four more levels of professional baseball, culminating in his first stint in the majors, where he hit .301 in 24 games for the Blue Jays.
Snider, who hit a combined .279 with 25 homers and 104 RBIs in Single-A (Dunedin), Double-A (New Hampshire), Triple-A (Syracuse) and the majors last season, continued to impress in spring training this year.
He batted .381 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 22 games to earn a spot on the Blue Jays’ Opening Day roster.
Once the regular season started, Snider didn’t miss a beat, batting .310 with three homers and 10 RBIs in his first 14 games.
It looked like Toronto’s top prospect would be in the big leagues to stay. But then Snider slumped, hitting .193 over his next 18 games, with no homers and two RBIs, as his average dipped to .242 (24-for-99).
With the left-handed hitter only playing against right-handed pitchers for the Blue Jays, the team decided to send their prized prospect to Las Vegas, where he’d get regular at-bats.
Snider was sent down Thursday but didn’t report until Sunday, taking the maximum time allowed. He needed time to digest what he said was the biggest setback of his professional career.
“I think if anybody said they weren’t disappointed when they get sent down, they’d be lying,” he said Tuesday before going 1-for-3 with a run scored for the 51s in their 10-2 loss to New Orleans at Cashman Field. “You hope that day never comes, but as I’ve had a few days to kind of let it set in and really do some thinking and soul searching, I understand it’s the best decision for me … to be here and play every day and kind of get back in the swing of things.
“Hopefully things will turn around, and I’ll get another opportunity soon.”
It should only be a matter of time before the Blue Jays recall their prized prospect, and 51s manager Mike Basso said he has a chance to be something special.
“He has a whole bunch of ability,” Basso said. “He can really hit, and he can really throw … Once he gets up there and establishes himself, he’s going to be some kind of player.”
Snider is 3-for-10 with no RBIs in three games for Las Vegas (18-27).
He turned 21 in February but displays a maturity that belies his years as he discussed his first demotion.
“As a young guy, I’ve got to be realistic about things and understand you’re going to hit your walls and you’re going to struggle, but it’s really what you do during those times and how you react to them that I think is a judge of a person and their character,” he said.
Snider said losing his mother a few years ago gave him a better perspective on the game.
“I’ve always said what I’ve dealt with off the field has helped me keep things in perspective on the field,” he said. “This is a very humbling game and there’s a lot of failure involved with it, but you just have to continue to learn and grow from those mistakes and the failure you deal with is ultimately what’s going to make or break you.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.NEW ORLEANS 10
LAS VEGAS 2
KEY: Willie Collazo held the 51s to one run in seven innings, and Michael Ryan went 5-for-5 for the Zephyrs.
NEXT: Zephyrs (RHP Ricky Nolasco) at 51s (LHP Brian Burres), 7:05 p.m. today, Cashman Field