We've probably been as guilty as anyone when it comes to heaping expectations on The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM Travis Snider. Not only do we expect him to be the future of the franchise...we expect him to be one of the few glimmers of hope in the 2009 season.
Which is why we were stuck by a recent discussion that we heard on a Baseball Prospectus podcast discussing the state of the Kansas City Royals' prospects for the coming season.
In the conversation with J.J. Picollo, the Royals' Director of Player Development, it was noted that KC likely made a tactical mistake in their hasty promotion of their own great hope for the future of the franchise, Alex Gordon. After an outstanding season in 2006 at Wichita (29 HRs, 101 RsBI, 1.015 OPS), Gordon was rushed to the majors, and never saw a pitch at the triple-A level. This, in spite of the fact that he was probably striking out too much (113 Ks in 486 ABs), and would have benefited from an extra half season in the minors to adjust to a higher calibre of pitching.
While Gordon has made strides over his first two seasons, his rookie year (at age 23) was scarcely the breakout season that most of the prospect punditocracy expected : 15 HRs, 60 RsBI, .725 OPS and 147 Ks in 543 ABs. Last season, Gordon cut down on his strikeouts and took a few more walks, but even with those improvements, his numbers over 134 games didn't live up to the hype and promise (15 HRs, 59 RsBI and a .783 OPS).
Considering that Snider's minor league totals are in the same general neighbourhood as Gordon's, we are reminded that our "conservative" notions of 20 homers and 70 RsBIs and an OPS over .800 might be a tad optimistic. As much hope as we hold out for Snider and the impact he can have on this year's offense, it's worth remembering that he whiffed 177 times between all four levels he played at last year.
Not to be a killjoy, but we might have to scale back our expectations a bit on our new favourite Jay.