When the Mariners made their 17th round selection in the 2003 draft, the pick didn't make much noise around the Puget Sound area, nor did it catch the eye of any major media outlet that subsequently sent the news sprinting across the information superhighway. Starting pitcher Jason Snyder was the choice, a 20-year-old power pitcher who was coming off of a mediocre experience at the University of Arizona.
At first glance it seems as if the Mariners had reached somewhat, even for a 17th round pick. A closer look at how the club handled their 17th rounder reveals quite the opposite.
Instead of signing such a player and tossing him into the jaws of minor league baseball, they simply informed the pitcher that they wanted to see more of him, since they had seen so little of him at his peak level of performance.
"It's different but the Mariners told me when I was drafted that it was going to be a draft-and-follow, so I knew I wasn't going to sign then." Snyder said. "So there wasn't really a lot of disappointment for not signing last year, and this year they came around and made me an offer and it was something I really wanted and it was good to come back to. "
The reasoning for such a decision made the pick an intriguing move by the Mariners.
"They just wanted to see me," Snyder added. "I had a bad year coming out of Arizona and I wasn't going to pitch that year so they just wanted to see me pitch the following year."
The process is called "draft-and-follow." Clubs have up until the one week before the following year's draft to sign a player taken the previous June. It's a fairly unusual situation but the M's did just that. Snyder was signed the week prior to this past June's First Year Player Draft after he had spent the year at Dixie State Junior College.
Snyder is no stranger to the draft, after being a 40th round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2001. Needless to say, Snyder did not sign, instead deciding to the college route.
The big right-hander grew up idolizing a former Mariner ace and followed the Mariners as a kid. He even had the story to back up his claim that he was truly a fan of the Seattle Mariners.
"My favorite team growing up was the Mariners." Snyder said. "I promise you, I have a Mariners dugout jacket from when I was 12, and I got another one when I was 16 to fit me. I have always liked the Mariners."
His favorite player was also a Mariner, and a starting pitcher to boot.
"Randy Johnson when he was up here," Snyder said glowingly of his baseball hero. "I was disappointed to see him leave and go down to the D-Backs, but I loved Randy Johnson."
Snyder spent the first part of his 2004 season down in Peoria at the M's spring training complex. The 21-year-old used that time in Arizona preparing for his new career as a Seattle Mariners prospect.
"I was working on keeping in control and working on my command," the Aquasox co-ace said. "I already had the velocity, which was pretty good coming in there. So basically it was about throwing my command pitches, throwing the curveball a little sharper and getting ready to move on."
Snyder's command couldn't have been much better on Saturday night in the second game of the Sox's doubleheader versus Eugene. The 6-foot-5 Snyder was in control from the first pitch of the game and picked up his first win as a Northwest Leaguer. After six solid outings with the Rookie League Peoria Mariners, Snyder had struggled in his previous two starts, yielding five earned runs and six walks in eight innings. Start No. 3 went much smoother.
"It felt great," said Snyder. "I came off a tough game my last game and I got a lot (back) together this time, and I just went out there and pitched and it was a lot of fun." Snyder said. "I enjoyed it."
Snyder went six strong innings, scattering four hits while surrendering just one run. Without issuing a walk, the power pitcher struck out four from a quality Eugene lineup. Snyder used a low-90s fastball and a plus breaking pitch to baffle the Emeralds.
The breaking ball is deceptive, even to those not standing in the batter's box, and appears to have as much slide to it as it does a downward break. Such a pitch leaves one wondering what kind of pitch it really is.
"It's a curve ball, but my arm action is a little low so it makes it look (like a) slurve, but it's a curve." Snyder said of his strikeout pitch.
Snyder's approach to pitching is already a sign that he understands how to pitch.
"It's best if I can go out there and get a 1-2-3 every time, but obviously that doesn't happen," he said. "So when guys get on I don't go for the strikeout. I want them hit a ground ball and get the double-play and be done with it."
Snyder added that with a larger lead, the approach can be altered.
"If you get a great lead you can go out there and try to throw harder and try to blow guys away and maybe try to get those strikeouts. You can attack"
Snyder felt strong Saturday night and could have pitched the seventh and final frame, but the club needed to get Tacoma native and Washington State product Aaron Trolia some work. Like most tough-minded pitchers, Snyder would have liked to finish what he started.
"Yeah of course, it's a reasonable goal, (even) with a nine-inning game to go seven, so yeah."
Trolia closed out the game to preserve the 12-1 victory and clinch the doubleheader sweep for the Aqua Sox. With the win, Snyder improved to 1-1 on the season with a 3.86 ERA and 13 punch-outs in 14 innings pitched.
If you are curious about what kind of pitcher Snyder is, he offered a single-sentence self evaluation after being asked to describe his pitching style to those that have never seen him throw.
"I'd tell them I was an aggressive and dominating pitcher."
After watching him send one Emerald hitter after another back to the dugout without anything to show for their efforts, I'd say he hit the nail on the head.
One to Watch: RHP Jason Snyder
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