As the final week of workouts winds down before the Spring Training matchups start, Blue Jays fans are beginning to get signs that perhaps the question of Left Field isn’t as much of a question as we’d previously thought.
A year ago, Travis Snider seemed cemented in the starting lineup. But that was before a rib injury that sidelined him for the early part of Spring Training. And then a disappointing April that saw him bat only .184 in 25 games.
He was sent down to Las Vegas AAA to work on his swing mechanics. After showing good progress, Snider was brought back to Toronto where he continued to struggle. He spent the tail end of the season in Las Vegas and then nursing a wrist injury that kept him from being a September call-up.
In his place, rookie Eric Thames started 95 games in left field and hit reasonably well, particularly against righties, with an overall .262 average. Thames needs to work on his plate discipline, but that should come with experience. If he can learn to spot the ball a bit better, he’ll be able to improve on his walk and strikeout rates and leverage a bit of his power more often.
This off-season, Thames worked on his muscles, gaining incredible guns through more than his usual yoga workouts. He also worked on his throwing game after being criticized for a lack of range and accuracy.
In comparing the two players, most sources agree that Snider has the greater potential, but analysts are beginning to wonder if he’ll get the chance.
Last season, left field was Snider’s to lose. This year the tables are turned, and the ‘question of left field’ has been touted as one of the most compelling stories of the Spring.
But is it really a question at all?
As reported by Gregor Chisholm, Blue Jays Beat Reporter, Snider’s been noticeably absent from the presumed opening day outfield workouts. Thames has been in left field for all of the team workouts with Bautista and Rasmus, along with Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco; all expected to be part of the 25-man roster when the season starts.
Thames has also done a significant amount of promotional work for the team. He recently filmed a scoreboard promo for the Blue Jays. We learned this from this photo from the Blue Jays Official account. Among others recording similar features; Ricky Romero, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil. Along with JP Arencibia, Ricky Romero, and Brett Lawrie, Eric Thames traveled around Canada to meet Blue Jays fans in other provinces as part of the Winter Tour.
Farrell and Anthopoulos have practically stated that the job is Thames’ to lose this Spring, and it sure feels that way. From the outside looking in, Snider’s still the odd man out. He’ll have to show significantly improved discipline at the plate and a return to that potential we saw earlier in his career.
Will it happen for Snider this year? We won’t know for some time yet. But you can bet that if he gets lots of work – and shines at it – early this Spring, the ‘battle’ may get more serious than it feels right now.