Prospect Files: Chris Snelling

Still only 21-years-old, Chris Snelling is one of the best pure hitters in the Mariners' farm system. While battling injuries over the past couple seasons, not even that has slowed down the Australian's ability to bang out the base hits at each level of the minor leagues. Heading into 2004, he'll have as good a shot as any M's minor league outfielder to make the big league 25-man roster out of Spring Training.

Position: OF
Born: Dec. 3, 1981
Place: North Miami, FL
Height: 5-11
Weight: 189
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
How Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Australia in 1999

Chris Snelling was the first of many Aussie's signed by the Mariners in the past several years, and started a pipeline the club hopes proves fruitful for years to come. Baseball was perhaps Snelling's second love growing up. Tennis was the family sport that Snelling learned in Florida from his father. Baseball came along years later, and the ease in which he picked up the game was the telltale of the future.

Immediately Snelling showed great promise, led by his bat and natural instincts, as a 17-year-old at Everett in 1999. Hitting .306 with 10 homeruns and showcasing superb plate discipline at such a young age shot Snelling up the prospect charts instantly.

2000, spent entirely at Wisconson, Snelling again hit over .300 and showed even more of the same promise. His 23 extra-base hits in 72 games as an 18-year-old were amazing enough to vault the Australian to blue-chip status despite an injury that shortened his year.

Snelling, proving to be an extremely consistent offensive threat, hit .336 at San Bernardino with 46 extra-base hits and 73 RBI in 2001. His low strikeout ratios continued with just 63 in 501 plate appearances. Playing CF mostly, Snelling ran down gap hits without great speed, but with tremendous jumps on line drives.

2002 saw Snelling hit .326 at Double-A San Antonio after recovering from an injury he suffered at the tail end of 2001. His hot start with the Missions got him a call-up to Seattle after just 23 games with the Missions and after eight games and 27 at bats, the scrappy left-handed hitting Snelling tore his ACL rounding third base in Tampa. Following surgery and rehab the 21-year-old returned to San Antonio in 2003 and picked up right where he left off in 2002.

San Antonio's high-octane lineup welcomed the mid-season addition of Snelling and it didn't take long for the youngster to regain his swagger. 47 games in San Antonio was enough for Snelling to earn his first promotion to Triple-A and after a slow start, things looked very much the same in Tacoma. Snelling hit .269 with the Rainiers after hitting .333 in San Antonio.

2003 ended the same way the previous two seasons had for the slick-hitting outfielder - with an injury. Snelling is expected to be 100 percent by Spring Training 2004 and will challenge for a roster spot with the big league club.

TOOLS: Grading Scale

Stick: 70
Snelling has hit well at every single level he has ever played. Not the possessor of a lot of power, Snelling relies on a line-drive stroke that rivals the likes of MLB All-Stars Larry Walker, and Brian Giles, minus the homerun totals. Snelling should hit .300 in the big leagues. Why not, he has everywhere else.

Glove: 50+
Snelling played CF for much of his early career in the minors but is better suited as a LF at the MLB level. Blessed with fantastic instincts, Snelling's defensive game depends on great jumps and intelligent positioning, and rates as an above average defender.

Speed: 40+
Snelling isn't going to steal 40 bases, hit 15 triples, or be the all-time leader in inside-the-park homeruns, but he will do more with his average speed than many speedier runners in baseball. Like his plate skills and defensive prowess, Snelling uses instincts and baseball smarts to be an effective baserunner.

MLB ETA: 2004

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