Friday, January 1, 2010

Ian Snell: His job isn't in as much trouble as outsiders think

David Golebiewski asks, "What happened to Ian Snell?" I don't have much to add to his thoughtful piece, but there is an item he opens with that is up for contention:

It didn’t come as much of a surprise, then, when Pittsburgh shipped Snell out of town this past July as part of a seven-player trade with the Seattle Mariners. After more mediocre pitching with the M’s, Snell now enters the 2010 season looking to hold off the likes of Doug Fister, Luke French, Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson for a rotation spot.

While it was partially said for effect, I'll admit, I have to add that it's highly unlikely any of the above beat out the experienced and talented Snell for all of the remaining rotation spots, even if Snell still has an obnoxious control problem.

First of all, one additional rotation spot opened up when the Mariners traded Brandon Morrow, who was originally projected to take one of those spots, to Toronto for Brandon League and Yohermyn Chavez. That increased the already-likely likelihood that Snell would be in the Opening Day rotation, which so far consists of Felix Hernandez, newly acquired Cliff Lee, Ryan Rowland-Smith and... uh... uhhhhh... I guess any two of the above, including Snell, assuming GM Jack Zduriencik doesn't pick up another arm before April.

Secondly, aside from Snell all the names mentioned are #5 caliber starters at best who are capable but have struggled mightily at the big league level. Of those listed, I would only say French has a fairly good shot at a rotation spot, as even though he struggled with Seattle he at least was fairly consistent while with Detroit, and if he gets back on track in the Spring one of the slots is his.

The others are borderline candidates (and keep in mind I'm a big fan of Fister) and would have to take a great leap forward as pitchers to force their way in... or Snell would have to completely implode as a pitcher. Olson's had his chances both in Baltimore and in Seattle and let's just say he's probably better suited from the bullpen. Fister only has a handful of starts but he too might be better off from the pen, and let's just say the only way Vargas works as your #5 is if absolutely no one else among that group looks better.

Whether or not Ian Snell's one mental-reset away from getting back to the effectiveness he had at the top of his Pittsburgh days, a spot in the rotation is probably his as long as he brings the same stuff and same promise of effectiveness to the table... and shows some progress in limiting walks and staying in front of hitters.

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