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The Texas Rangers acquired left-handed pitcher Ben Snyder on Thursday morning via trade with the Baltimore Orioles.
Snyder was shipped to the Rangers with reliever Chris Ray to complete Wednesday’s trade that sent veteran starter Kevin Millwood to Baltimore. The southpaw began the day as a member of the San Francisco Giants organization–as he had been since 2006–but the Orioles selected him with the third pick in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft before dealing him to Texas.
Because Snyder was selected in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, he joins the Rangers’ 40-man roster, and he will have to spend the entire 2010 campaign in the Major Leagues [and must be on the active roster for at least 90 days] for him to remain Rangers property.
A product of Ball State University, Snyder was San Francisco’s fourth-round selection in the 2006 MLB Draft. He worked his way through the lower levels as a starting pitcher, and he posted a 28-9 career record with a 2.41 earned-run average in 302.2 career innings between short-season Salem-Keizer, Single-A August, and High-A San Jose.
It wasn’t until the second half of the 2008 season, when Snyder received a promotion to Double-A Connecticut, that he experienced his first real struggles in professional baseball. In 13 appearances (12 starts) with the Defenders, Snyder had a 5.98 ERA and he surrendered nine home runs in just 61.2 innings.
The Giants elected to convert their 24-year-old prospect into a reliever in 2009, and the move paid major dividends. Snyder logged 97 innings on the season at Double-A–mostly pitching in long relief–and he limited opposing hitters to just 82 hits while walking 38 and striking out 86.
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound hurler missed some time after being drilled in the head with a line drive in a game at Bowie on July 28. However, he appeared just over two weeks later, pitching three innings out of the bullpen against Akron.
Snyder joins the Rangers’ organization as a relief pitcher, and he will likely be called upon as sort of a left-handed specialist. Due to his deception and above-average slider, he has been a nightmare for left-handed hitters throughout his career. Through his 461.1 career professional innings, lefties are just 95-for-519 [.183 average] against him, and he limited them to a remarkable .146 clip in 2009.
The Bellevue, Ohio, native has a four-pitch repertoire–including an 87-90 mph fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup–but it’s the fastball-slider combination that has allowed him to excel–and post consistently high strikeout rates–against his southpaw brethren.
Snyder figures to compete for the Rangers’ second left-handed relief spot along with Clay Rapada, Zach Phillips, and potentially a non-roster invitee or two.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Snyder after Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Jason Cole: I know this has certainly been a big day for you, so first off, just give me your thoughts on getting selected in today’s Rule 5 Draft.
Ben Snyder: It’s definitely a very exciting day for me. It’s something I’ve worked real hard for, and I’m going to keep working hard to stay there. I don’t want to be the player to be named later that was sent back and all that. I’m going to work hard and try to earn my spot in this bullpen.
Cole: Leading up to this day, were you thinking there was a chance you would be picked in the Rule 5?
Snyder: Yeah, I had a feeling. There were a couple of guys–like former teammates–that had agents in Indianapolis following the winter meetings. They were checking in on me and asking how I was doing. Once San Francisco didn’t put me on their 40-man, that was kind of the next step and the next thing to look forward to in reaching the big leagues. This is definitely a bit day.
Cole: What kind of feeling is that leading up to the draft? Obviously I’m sure you’d like to stay with the Giants, where you’ve been your whole career. But on the other hand, if you get picked, you’ve got a crack at the big leagues. Leading up to the draft, do you find yourself rooting to get picked?
Snyder: I was anxious to see if I had pitched good in front of the right people and stuff. People could take notice of me. Yeah, I was definitely very anxious to see what was going to happen today. I guess you could say I was rooting for myself to get picked.
It was a strange feeling that I haven’t had in awhile–since back in ’06 when I got drafted by the Giants. I haven’t been a part of anything like that where I got to find out what people thought of me.
This is definitely my top personal goal that I could ever have–to reach the big leagues and have a long career there. This is step one, and I thank the Rangers organization for having enough faith in me to make me their Rule 5 pick. I know it’s a gamble, but it has paid off in the past and hopefully my hard work and determination will keep me there.
Cole: Talk to me about how you found out. Were you listening online this morning? Did you get a call from somebody?
Snyder: I knew it was today, but I didn’t know it was at 9:00 this morning. So I got up and I was getting around. Pretty much right at 9:00, I got a text from a friend that said, ‘Congrats on Baltimore.’ Then I got a text right away, soon after that, from Bobby Evans, a front office guy for the San Francisco Giants. He texted me and said, ‘When you get a second, give me a call.’ I called him right away, and he was in the meeting at the time.
He informed me of what had happened with Baltimore, and he said he would be giving me a call back later that would explain a little bit more when he had more time. But I got a call and talked to Bobby Evans. I saw on the internet about the Millwood deal being finalized and everything like that. I didn’t really know what was going on. I’ve never really been part of a process like this.
Cole: To give Rangers fans an idea of you as a pitcher, tell me a little bit about you as a pitcher. Kind of a mini-scouting report, if you can.
Snyder: This year was the first year I was put in the bullpen. I’ve been a starter my whole life, and the Giants have a lot of young talented prospects like Madison Bumgarner. Guys like that who need to get their time in. He ended up getting called up from Double-A, where I was this year. They moved me into the bullpen, and I was used mainly as a long reliever.
I’ve got a fastball, curveball, slider, and change. They liked it a lot for me when I got in on left-on-left situations–I was able to throw my slider a lot. That has been a big pitch for me ever since college, when–back at Ball State–our pitching coach, Mike Stafford, taught me the slider. It has just been developing and getting a lot better. I’ve been getting a lot more confidence in that, along with my changeup and everything.
I’ll be a guy who works at maybe 87-88 mph. I’ll sit around right there and maybe get into the 90s every once in awhile. I’m a guy who keeps the ball down and hits spots and uses his slider on lefties. I’m trying to develop all my pitches and work from there, I guess.
Cole: Even though you were a starter through your first three professional seasons, had you always known that your future was as a reliever?
Snyder: They always had faith in me, and I had always been a starter until last year when I struggled at Double-A when I got a second-half promotion from High-A San Jose. I struggled during the second half last year, my first time being in Double-A. My velocity was a little down at the end of last year, too. They put me in the ‘pen to see if the velocity would come back and to see how I would handle it.
I liked the transition. I’d done it maybe once or twice before in tournaments back in legion ball. But being a starter growing up and going into the reliever role, I got to pitch three, four, or five innings a couple of times this year. It was good. I liked getting into the one time through the lineup. Guys didn’t have a chance to time me up as good.
Cole: By looking at the numbers, you were obviously really tough on lefties this year, and I assume that’s one of the primary reasons the Rangers had the faith to select you. What is it about your game that makes you so tough on left-handed hitters?
Snyder: My slider, just like I was saying. My slider has been a developing pitch that has been doing just great things for me. I’ve been able to control it a lot better and throw it at the right times, too, and set it up. I was able to get with the right pitching coaches in the Giants organization, who were able to teach me how to pitch. I’ve had the ability to throw and everything, it’s just keeping the ball down, having the mindset, and setting up hitters. Just trying to learn and gain as much information as I can coming up through their system.
Cole: Have you ever been to big league camp in the past?
Snyder: No, I haven’t been invited at all yet. I’ve just been in minor league camp.
Cole: Well, talk about how much you’re looking forward to getting in big league camp this year and competing with guys like Clay Rapada for a left-handed relief role.
Snyder: It’s an opportunity that I look forward to. I’ve been just working hard to get where I am today, and I’ve got a lot of people to thank for that. I definitely want that opportunity to happen. I want to be that guy–that’s what I’m trying to say. I want to be the guy that wows them in Spring Training–kind of the new face that nobody really knows about that they kind of get impressed by. We’ll see what happens there. But yeah, I’m looking forward to being that rookie and getting all the hazing and all that stuff. Everything that people go through. It’s going to be fun. I’m going to accept everything that happens to me, and we’ll take it from there.
Cole: Is there one part of your game that you’d really like to improve on as you head into 2010?
Snyder: Who wouldn’t want to improve their velocity? I’m a lefty, a guy that touches 90 mph every once in awhile. I’ve been trying to get in some long toss programs and strengthen my velocity and everything.
Just performing overall better. Just having a better mindset, processing things as they happen, and keeping my composure and everything. Just the whole thing. It takes a lot of hard work, from what I understand, to reach the big leagues. And I’m going to put in a lot of time and effort to make sure I stay there and to make it happen.
Cole: I don’t know how the Giants work, but I believe the Rangers pitchers began their throwing program in early December. Have you started your throwing program yet, and what are you doing to prepare for 2010 right now?
Snyder: Right now, I’ve been working out. I live in New Albany, Ohio, right now with my girlfriend. She’s pretty much one of the few people that I know here. She went to Ohio State, and I know a couple of the Ohio State baseball players. Former guys like Dan DeLucia and Cory Luebke and people like that. They still hang around here, they’re from Ohio, they’re from the Columbus area, and they have access.
Last year, we went up to the Woody Hayes Center on the Ohio State campus. It’s their indoor football training facility. Hopefully we’re going to do that again this year when the baseball team gets in there. We’ll have some time.
Other than that, I’ve just been working out. I took about three weeks off after the season and I’ve been kind of doing some workouts here at home. I’ve got a gym that I’ve been getting with. But other than that, I don’t have a whole lot of resources to strengthen everything except public gyms and everything. But I don’t have anything baseball-specific related that I can do until we get inside.
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