When the Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink reported Wednesday that Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Travis Snider recently underwent surgery to correct a lingering injury to his left foot, it was instructive for more than one reason.
Firstly, the news illustrated that Snider has been compromised by the toe problem ever since he arrived in Pittsburgh via trade in the summer of 2012. The once highly-regarded draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays has a subpar .627 OPS in a Pirates uniform, including a .614 mark in 111 games last season.
Those aren’t results indicative of a player listed as Toronto’s No. 2 asset under 25 by Baseball Prospectus as recently as 2011. While countless prospects have busted once reaching the major leagues, perhaps Snider deserves a full healthy season to prove his worth, something he hasn’t enjoyed in Pittsburgh.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Brink that Snider “adds to our depth of options in right field.” Short of top prospect Gregory Polanco bursting on the Pittsburgh scene or another offseason addition, the Bucs are looking at Snider and Jose Tabata in right for 2014.
If you’re thinking platoon, Tabata’s career splits are quite similar, as the 25-year-old has a .735 OPS against lefties and a .720 vs. righties. Interestingly, Tabata has a higher average (.279) and on-base percentage (.340) against same-siders, but drives the ball further against opposite-handed pitching (.403 slugging percentage).
So platooning isn’t an obvious solution, but manager Clint Hurdle could ride the hot bat, hoping that Snider can take advantage of his opportunity. Tabata posted the best OPS of his career (.771) in 2013, although in the fewest plate appearances (431) of his four-year Pirates stint.
If Tabata comes close to those numbers in 2014 – and that’s a big ‘if’ considering his injury history – Snider wouldn’t have to carry too much of the load in right field. Both players have question marks, but the Pirates don’t have to look outside the organization for help in front of the Clemente Wall.