11/03/09 12:38 PM EST
Snyder ready for the big stage in 2010
Orioles prospect working toward first callup to the Majors
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
That desire lasted only about five seconds.
On just another Arizona Fall League day in Mesa, Ariz., Snyder picked up the jersey of Stephen Strasburg -- the vaunted triple-digit-throwing right-hander who signed with the Nationals for record money after the 2009 First-Year Player Draft -- then put it on and took a little stroll outside of the clubhouse.
In an instant, the highly touted Orioles prospect was hounded by about 50 eager, then disappointed autograph seekers -- most of them adults -- thinking he was indeed the No. 1 overall pick who received much national attention before humming his first professional fastball.
"I just wanted to see what it would be like and, honest to God, it was almost terrifying," said Snyder, who's playing with Strasburg on the Phoenix Desert Dogs this fall. "I would never want to be like that, ever. I was with [Orioles catcher Matt] Wieters, and it's like 100 times what Wieters had to go through."
In a vastly different way, Snyder's ascension through the Minor Leagues has been a whirlwind, too.
But after shoulder surgery early in his career, a rough start and five years in professional baseball, the shortstop-turned-catcher-turned-third baseman-turned-first baseman finally looks like he could be closing in on his first Major League callup next season.
Following a 98-loss '09 campaign, and after declining to pick up the $8 million club option on third baseman Melvin Mora's contract, the O's have holes at the corner-infield positions, as Ty Wigginton, who can play both first and third base, is the only established veteran at the moment.
Baltimore could fill that need with an experienced bat this offseason. But if not, it would go to one of their prospects, and the 22-year-old Snyder and AFL teammate Josh Bell -- the third baseman who came over in the deal that sent reliever George Sherrill to the Dodgers this past season -- are deemed to be the early favorites.
So once February rolls around, Snyder will go into Spring Training looking to win a job.
"Last year, I was going to Spring Training just to let everybody see the number on my back and see my name and know who I was," Snyder said. "Now, it's going in there with the purpose of, 'I'm going to make this team,' and if not, I'm going to put a good reason for why I should be on the team later on."
Snyder, the 13th overall Draft choice in '05, scorched through Double-A Bowie and earned a promotion in mid-June to Triple-A, where he played in 73 games for the Norfolk Tides. Following up a breakout season in which he hit .315 for high-A ball in '08, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-handed hitter combined to hit .289 with 12 home runs and 88 RBIs in 131 games this past season.
Now, in 13 games for the first-place Desert Dogs -- 12-6 and aiming for their sixth straight AFL championship although the league switches affiliated teams every year -- Snyder is tied for eighth in the league in batting average (.365), is third in RBIs (16) and also has three home runs.
Snyder was recently named to Saturday's AFL Rising Stars Game, joining hitting coach Moe Hill and right-hander Brandon Erbe on the East Division team.
Orioles director of player development David Stockstill said recently that Snyder doesn't project to be a big home run hitter in the big leagues, "but I believe he'll be a big RBI producer," he added.
Snyder believes hitting with men on base -- a craft players usually don't hone until years into their Major League careers -- is his best trait.
"For me to be a 100-RBI guy, I gotta hit well with men on base," Snyder said. "A lot of guys, they get their 100 RBIs with 35 home runs, and that's not my game. I hit the ball hard, and I hit the ball in the gaps. And if guys are on, [I understand] when to sacrifice myself to get the runner in from third [and] know when to look for a pitch and drive the ball in the gap to try to score him."
Snyder was a shortstop in high school but was drafted as a catcher. Shoulder problems then moved him to the corner-infield spots, and manager Dave Trembley told him at Spring Training this year that first base was his future.
Snyder admits he was bummed to hear that after growing a liking to the hot corner, but he's grown to love his new position, too, despite perceived struggles there early on.
Now, he believes he's ready to play it at the highest level.
"I've had a lot of great guys help me out throughout the years, and I'm extremely comfortable [at first base]," Snyder said. "I feel like I've played a lot of good first base, especially as of late, and it's basically become my position.
"Right now, I feel like I can definitely play it up there [in the big leagues]."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.