Meet Forrest Snow

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus came out with Seattle’s top 20 prospects a few weeks ago, and while there’s a lot of talent to be excited about atop the list, I wanted to focus on #20, Forrest Snow.

After recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2007, he went on to put up relatively unimpressive numbers at Washington before the Ms drafted him in the 36th round in 2010. His minor league numbers, however, were good enough to get him 35 innings in AAA Tacoma toward the end of this past season. He is a right-handed reliever with a low ceiling , but the intrigue lies in the fact that he will likely be pitching in Seattle at some point during 2012, whereas many other top prospects on Goldstein’s list aren’t projected to be roaming Safeco Field until 2013 or 2014.

With only 35 innings pitched at the AAA level, looking at conventional stats like ERA and wins is even more meaningless than usual. Focusing on statistics that stabilize quickly, like the percent of his pitches that were swung at and missed, or his overall strike percentage, are likely to be more indicative of what Snow brings to the table.

Snow struck out over 20% of all batters he faced via the swinging strikeout. The major league average is 14.5% for relievers. Possibly even more telling is the fact that PCLers–a group that hit historically well last season–swung and missed at more than 13% of his pitches. Again the major league average is well below Snow’s rates, coming in at 10% for relievers. And finally, 64.5% of his pitches were thrown for some sort of strike, versus a major league average of about 63%. Major league hitters are obviously better than what the PCL has to offer, but based on cutting-edge research, being above average is so much better than being below average.

While 35 innings is hardly a sufficient sample size, by breaking down his stats into the 147 batters he faced and the 546 pitches he threw, we can look for more meaningful indicators with larger sample sizes. Using these statistics, his AAA stats showed obvious potential, and the good news doesn’t stop there. Pitching in the Arizona Fall league this summer, Snow is #6 on Fangraphs’ leaderboard for pitcher performance, and he is the top-rated reliever. These leaderboards are based on some of the very same per-pitch statistics from above in an effort to take meaning out of small samples.

While Forrest Snow will never be the next Felix Hernandez, he can be a valuable reliever in a bullpen whose headliners looked like this last year:

Pitcher

IP

K/9

FIP

League

61.1

6.6

2.78

Josh Lueke

32.2

7.99

3.24

David Pauley

54.1

5.63

3.36

Wilhelmsen

32.2

8.27

3.36

Chris Ray

32.2

6.06

3.58

Jamey Wright

68.1

6.32

4.3

Jeff Gray

35

4.11

4.68

Aaron Laffey

42.2

5.06

5.23

While this bullpen put up the 3rd best ERA in the league, that figure masks the fact that they get to pitch in Safeco, and that the highest strikeout rate was recorded by Willhelmsen at 8.27. Not a recipe for sustained success, nor for success on the road.

Is Snow going to turn into a top closer? Likely not, as Goldstein indicates. But you can’t complain about a team-controlled, low-cost middle reliever with above average success in the minors, especially when he’s only your 20th best prospect.

 

 

Name IP K/9 FIP Brandon League 61.1 6.6 2.78 Josh Lueke 32.2 7.99 3.24 David Pauley 54.1 5.63 3.36 Tom Wilhelmsen 32.2 8.27 3.36 Chris Ray 32.2 6.06 3.58 Jamey Wright 68.1 6.32 4.3 Jeff Gray 35 4.11 4.68 Aaron Laffey 42.2 5.06 5.23

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