Chris Snelling, OF: No. 3

Chris Snelling brings his top-drawer report card to class and comes in at No. 3.

Chris Snelling began his sports career as a tennis player in Miami, Florida as a 12-year-old. He didn't pick up a baseball bat until four years before the Seattle Mariners discovered and convinced him to sign a free agent contract in March of 1999.

For being relatively inexperienced in America's favorite pastime, the quiet Aussie took baseball by storm.

Just four months after signing a professional contract, a 17-year-old Snelling hit .306/.386/.498 in the Northwest League, smacking 10 home runs in just 69 games.

Barely a legal adult, Snelling lit the Midwest League on fire in 2000, duplicating his rate stats from his year in Everett.

The ensuing two seasons brought more of the same, as Snelling hit .336 in San Bernardino at the age of 19 and needed all of 23 games in Double-A San Antonio to earn a big-league call-up.

Snelling's path to the show was quick, but far from painless. He has played more than half a season just once in his minor league career, and has played less than 81 games in a year on four separate occasions.

The 114 games played he tallied in 2001 in the California League, is far and away his career best.

His '02 season, which began so promising with a .326 showing in 89 at-bats in the Texas League, ended in disaster when the 20-year-old tore the ACL in his knee just eight games into his major league debut.

Injury-riddled, jinxed, ill-fated or doomed, whatever the proper term, Snelling's future in the big leagues rides on his ability to stay healthy for long periods of time.

He's accomplished everything there is to do in the minors and has something in store for Safeco Field and the Mariners' faithful, should he get the chance.

There are very few talents in all of baseball that receive so many affirmative responses to inquiries that ask 'can he?'

The only 'no' in the offing is the question of whether he can avoid the disabled list.

If he can, he's an all-star. If he can't, he'll simply continue to be a cult favorite among hardcore Seattle Mariners fans.
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No. 3 – Chris Snelling, OF
DOB: 12.03.81
Ht/Wt: 5-10/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Signed as non-drafted free agent in 1999
Signed By: Mariners' scout Barry Holland

2005: After starting the year 10 days late in Triple-A, Snelling ran off a memorable 65-game tear that made opposing pitchers check the transactions wire to see if he'd been called up yet.

No, seriously, many hurlers were doing just that.

The left-handed hitting outfielder played in 65 total games in 2003, 10 games in 2004 and rolled into Tacoma and shredded the league's best pitchers, including a .377 average with runners in scoring position – versus left-handers.

He had six game-winning hits after the sixth inning and often displayed his flair for the dramatic. Snelling spent most of '05 as the best bat in the Pacific Coast League before getting the call and again suffering injury.

Strengths: Snelling has one weakness and it's one that is completely beyind his control – health. He hits for both average and power, still hangs onto above average speed, has a center fielders instincts and a strong, accurate throwing arm.

But that's not all.

The 24-year-old has all the intangibles an organization could ever ask for in a young player – or any player. He works as hard as anyone in baseball, has a strong cerebral side to his golbal approach to baseball and never settles for anything less than the best from himself.

He's a favorite of every manager and coach in which he's ever played and it seems that no matter how many times he goes down with a crushing injury, he bounces back better than ever.

Weaknesses: Outside of his injury history, any citing of weakness is petty. Snelling runs out ground balls, makes a lot of contact, gets better every day and understands what is necessary for him to do his job. If he has another shortcoming it's that he plays too hard, though he's found a satisfactory medium to curb his freak accidents.
2005 Tacoma AAA 246 17 8 46 2 36 43 .370 .452 .553
2005 Seattle MLB 29 2 1 1 0 5 2 .276 .382 .448

Tools: Scouting Profile

Hitting for Average: 65+
Snelling receives plus grades across the board offensively, starting with his impeccable strike zone judgment. He covers the plate well with a near-perfect batting eye and well above average bat speed. He'll draw plenty of walks and rarely sees strike three.

Snelling's career minor league batting average of .327 is no fluke. He's more than capable of hitting .300 in the big leagues and he'll bring a +70 or better on-base percentage along with him.

"He's been doing this to me and my teams for a few years now, said a rival PCL manager. "It doesn't seem to matter what we do, he usually comes back to get us. We had him 0-2 three times and he went 3-for-3 with a walk. How about that?"

Hitting for Power: 55
Snelling's power continues to develop as he fills out a compact 5-foot-10 frame with a complimentary short upper-cut swing. As he learns how to take better advantage of mistake pitches, his extra-base totals should persist to improve.

He's already capable of somewhere between 12 and 15 homers and about 30-35 doubles.

"He's a kid that will definitely gain more power," said Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach Terry Pollreisz. "As he learns to use that topspin to his advantage, I can definitely see more power from him. He's so relentless at what he does, I wouldn't put anything past him."

Glove: 50+
Snelling's days as an outfielder are winding down with each injury to his knees and feet. When he's roaming the green grass he takes good routes on fly balls, uses his instincts to make up for some of the loss of speed he has suffered the past five seasons and rarely makes a mistake in judgment.

There aren't many misteps in Snelling's defensive game. Sound familiar?

Arm: 55+
Snelling has a center fielder's arm that also plays well in right field, making him the natural fit in left field at Safeco - if his health would ever permit. The Aussie loves to make the long throws and is accurate and intelligent when making them.

Speed: 50+
When the M's signed Snelling he had 65+ speed and was playing center field. After three knee surgeries, that speed is merely average, though he never wastes any movement and gets the most outof what's left of his wheels.

Future: Snelling is a healthy knee from a major role o the 2006 25-man roster. As he continues to rehab, his return date keeps quietly inching closer and closer to the spring, rather than the summer months as originally scheduled.

Still, he'll remain behind in Peoria as camp breaks and look to get his season underway in late May.

Barring any setbacks, Snelling is likely to be back in Seattle sometime around the all-star break. He'll spend some time in Tacoma to regain his timing and to test his surgically repaired knee before the M's will come calling.

If one erased the doubt that Snelling's medical background reveals, he'd be starting his fourth year in the big leagues. As a prospect, he'd certainly be the top talent in the organization.

2006 Projection: .317/.411/.528, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 2 SB, 26 BB, 24 SO

MLB ETA: 2006

MLB COMP: Brian Giles (SD), Sean Casey (PIT)'s Top 20 Prospects are based on the player's long-term value to the Seattle Mariners organization.

All players that have not exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched at the big-league level are eligible. Service time is not considered.

The Scouting Scale grades are based on a combination of the payers' current and potential future skills.

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