Blake Snell is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, and with the Tampa Bay Rays needing a spot starter this weekend, he has earned a promotion. With his huge upside and early season debut, should fantasy owners now snag him off the waiver wire?
The 2015 MLB season was defined by the numerous top prospects that were promoted and made immediate impacts. In a day and age where we do not usually see top prospects get promoted early in the season due to contract stipulations, it is always interesting to see a top prospect get the call in April. The Tampa Bay Rays are currently in the middle of playing nine games straight and were put in a position where they needed a spot starter, bringing us to the promotion of, Blake Snell.
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Snell, 23, was the 52nd overall pick in the 2011 draft for the Rays out of Sherwood High School in Washington. Many evaluators long labeled Snell as a long-term project due to his delivery and control issues, but just as the Rays have done the last handful of seasons, he was developed into another one of their young and upcoming arms.
It should be first said that there is certainly a chance that Snell makes one start and is immediately demoted, no matter how well he performs. But, fantasy owners should still have a keen eye of his start tomorrow versus the Yankees to see just how well his stuff looks against MLB caliber hitting. His upside is just too high to ignore, even if it means picking him up and stashing him until he gets a permanent spot in the rotation.
Snell’s rise to top-tier prospect status was no easy road, as the first three years of his minor league career were riddled with inconsistency. His control issues trumped his ridiculous strikeout rates, and it ballooned his ERA. But, after a mechanical adjustment last season, he propelled himself to dominance.
He pitched at all three levels of minor league ball last season and answered the call each time he was tasked with facing tougher competition. His final season line was just silly, 1.41 ERA/163 K/1.02 WHIP/53 BB, over 23 starts and 134 IP. He also started the season throwing 46 consecutive scoreless innings, foreshadowing the success he would have the rest of the season.
Snell’s arsenal is highlighted by a mid-90s fastball that has late life, a true wipeout slider, and an ever developing changeup. His slider control improved greatly last season, and it is one of the keys for him going forward. One of the better skills he also brings, is his ability to change speeds. With his fastball sitting in the 90s, his slider and changeup are both thrown in the low 80s, giving him a 10+mph difference, which goes along way in keeping hitters off-balance at the plate. His most common pro comps are ironically Matt Moore and even, David Price, so the arm talent in evident.
Snell gets the Yankees on Saturday in New York, and he will be facing a Yankees’ lineup that has been struggling mightily lately, especially versus LHP. Snell deserves to be picked up regardless of he looks tomorrow, because his upside and potential to be one of the top fantasy prospects this season, is too hard to pass up. He may be sent right back to AAA after his start, but he will be a factor for the Rays this season and possibly a huge fantasy factor as well.