Justin Snyder | UTIL
Snyder was born and raised in Lakeside, CA, a relatively small suburb north of San Diego. He attended El Capitan High School, where he starred as a three sport athlete. He lettered in baseball, football and soccer, and helped turn a mediocre baseball program into a Southern California powerhouse alongside future college teammates Jordan Abruzzo and Dustin Church. Snyder batted .407, was named First Team All-State, and helped the Vaqueros win their first California Interscholastic Federation Championship his junior season. He followed that up by hitting .470 as a senior, bringing El Capitan it’s second consecutive CIF Championship title. He again received All-State honors, but added All-American honors as well. Snyder went undrafted in 2004, and chose to attend The University of San Diego over San Diego State because of academics, even though Tony Gwynn’s alma mater recruited him more heavily.
Snyder started 48 of the Toreros 57 games as a freshman, playing all over the infield and some outfield as well. He finished the year with a .318-.430-.447 line, with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 31 RBI and a 16-36 K/BB ratio. He finished second on the team in OPS and OBP, third in homers and tied for the team lead in walks. USD did not make the postseason, although Snyder did receive an All-Conference honorable mention.
Snyder started all 58 of the team’s games as a sophomore, and hit .301-.418-.416 with 14 doubles, 1 triple and 3 homers. He again walked more than he struck out (36-39 K/BB ratio), and again played all over the field. He received another All-Conference honorable mention, and helped the Toreros to their first NCAA Regionals appearance in three years (USD went 0-2 in the double elimination tourney, losing both times to Matt Garza and Fresno State).
Snyder became the catalyst of USD’s offense as a junior, hitting .352-.433-.482 with a team leading 85 hits and 21 doubles out of the leadoff spot. Unlike the previous two seasons, Snyder played primarily second base as junior, although he did walk more times than he struck out again (35-37 K/BB). Snyder finally broke through and won a spot on the All-Conference Team, while USD took home the conference title and earned a Top 8 National Seed for the NCAA Postseason (USD again went 0-2 in the Regional tourney).
Snyder was projected to be a top 6 rounds pick heading into the 2007 draft, but his stock fell considerably because of a host of reasons (size, signability, etc). The Yanks selected Snyder in the 21st round (#664 overall), and he became the Yanks’ first 2007 draftee to officially sign, agreeing to a far-above slot bonus approaching $100,000 the day after the draft. You can tell the Yanks like him, because they still paid him like a 6th rounder.
Snyder joined Short Season Staten Island after signing, and performed basically just like he had during his college career. He hit .335-.459-.477 with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 5 homers, 40 RBI and a 50-58 K/BB ratio while seeing the majority of his action at shortstop. He tied for fourth in the NY-Penn League in BA, first in OBP, third in OPS, first in hits, first in runs scored, and second in walks. The Yanks held Snyder out of Instructional League fearing he was fatigued after playing the longest season of his career.
Snyder’s best asset is his versatility. He played all over the field while with USD, and spent significant time at short, second, third and centerfield while with Staten Island. None of Snyder’s tools are above average, but he runs well and has surprising pop for a guy his size (5’9″, 190 lbs). He’s one of the unique players who bats lefty but throws righty, which makes more useful that a prototypical R-R infielder. His plate discipline is outstanding (hence the astronomical OBPs), and he makes enough contact to avoid big strikeout totals despite working deep counts. He’s a grinder and a pest, and he’s played above his tools since high school.
Snyder doesn’t play the little man’s game well despite his stature. His bunting is passable but not what you’d expect from a pesky type player, and his baserunning is just adequate. Although he makes good contact, it’s often weak and good fastballs will give him trouble. On the infield he needs to slow the game down, because he tends to rush his throws, fumble his transfers and have awkward footwork. He’s suited for second base and ideally would play center, but the Yanks won’t move him off short until he proves he can’t handle it.
Snyder should start the season at High-A Tampa. Bradley Suttle has already managed to show that he isn’t ready for High-A, which means Mitch Hilligoss can remain at third instead of moving over to short as planned. Snyder figures to play mostly shortstop for Tampa, unless the Yanks stick him in CF and give Eduardo Nunez another shot at Tampa’s shortstop gig.
Snyder’s a stat-head kind of guy. Sabermetrically inclined fans love the gaudy OBP and low strikeout totals, but I’m not completely enamored by the guy. There’s just not enough there for him to cover up his weaknesses, and he hasn’t fully learned to let the game come to him yet, which is what a small guy needs to do. If it all goes right for him he’ll be one hell of a utility player, but he’s going to have to scrap and grind and gritify his way up the ladder. The Yanks have better options, but you’d take a Justin Snyder in the 21st round year after year if you had the choice.