If you’re like I am, and you perused through the San Francisco Giants prospect lists during this past bleak season looking for the next impact player, you might have seen evaluations of Chris Shaw, Tyler Beede, or recent draftee Heliot Ramos.
If you scroll down a bit further into the lists that go beyond a top-10, you might have read about the potential of a C.J. Hinojosa, Sam Coonrad, or Melvin Adon.
The San Francisco Giants have promoted Snelten at a methodical pace since drafting him in the 9th round of the 2013 first-year player draft.
Beginning his professional career as a starter, he experienced more success upon being converted to a reliever during the 2016 season.
Since the conversion, he seems to have found some consistency with his high three quarter release and somewhat long delivery, as seen in this video from the Arizona Fall League.
After pitching in A+ for all of 2016, he started 2017 in AA. Eventually, after putting up a minuscule 1.66 ERA, 11.6 K/9, and not allowing a single home run over 21.2 innings there, he was promoted to AAA.
Over 52 innings in Sacramento (AAA), the lefty posted a 2.42 ERA with 7.4 K/9. Despite the lower strikeout rate, Snelten succeeded in keeping runners off the bases with a career-best 1.077 WHIP at the AAA-level.
In terms of offerings, he has a sinking fastball that helped him to a 2.41 ground ball/fly ball ratio and 62.2% ground ball percentage in AAA. His slider is improving and his changeup gives righties a different look at the plate as well.
While he might be the fourth of fifth lefty option for the major league bullpen, the front office evidently felt good enough about him to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft by adding him to the 40-man roster this past November.
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Generally speaking, Bruce Bochy likes to keep at least two lefties in the bullpen for matchup purposes. Barring any outside additions, lefties Steven Okert, Josh Osich, or a healthy Will Smith would likely precede Snelton on the organizational depth chart.
However, in the event Smith falters during his recover or Osich and Okert’s 2017 ineffectiveness carry over to 2018, Snelten’s chances of appearing in the big leagues would increase.
The only other lefties on the 40-man roster are ace Madison Bumgarner and probable starter Ty Blach. In the event the Giants add another back-of-the-rotation starter or Tyler Beede emerges as a rotation option, Blach could conceivably function as another lefty blocking Snelten in San Francisco.
Therefore, he’s not likely to break camp with the team, and would come up only in the event of one or two of those aforementioned relievers struggling or getting injured.
On the other hand, if he spends a full season at AAA and continues to excel, there should be no reason we wouldn’t at least see him in San Francisco in September, given that he’s already on the 40-man and is showing the ability to be a quality southpaw out of the pen.
He’s not flashy, but he gets results. Keep your eyes open for D.J. Snelten, everybody.