Snyder bringing changeup along

MIDLAND – Pitching in his second season at the Double-A level, left-hander Ben Snyder is focusing on refining his mechanics and improving his changeup to help him against right-handed hitters. So far, the results have been positive. Lone Star Dugout features the 24-year-old relief prospect.

When a Major League Rule 5 Draft selection doesn't make the big league opening day roster, the player is generally returned to his original team.

That wasn't the case with pitcher Ben Snyder, as the Rangers worked out a trade with the Giants, sending promising 18-year-old lefty Edwin Escobar to San Francisco in exchange for Snyder.

The club's willingness to part with Escobar––who signed for $350,000 in the summer of 2008––is a testament to what they think about Snyder.

Snyder had rocky numbers in six appearances with the Rangers' big league club in Spring Training, surrendering eight runs on 12 hits in seven innings. But despite the results, the Rangers' staff liked Snyder's stuff enough to keep him in the organization.

Because the club retained Snyder's rights via trade, he was no longer obligated to spend the season in the majors or remain on the 40-man roster. The Rangers assigned the prospect outright to Double-A Frisco at the end of camp.

Snyder logged 97 innings with San Francisco's Double-A affiliate last season, posting a 2.88 ERA. Because the southpaw has already pitched a full year at the level, he knows there will likely be an upcoming opportunity for a promotion.

"They told me to get rolling [in Frisco] a little bit," Snyder said. "This organization––we've already had about a dozen moves so far this year, so we have been moving guys up and down. There is a lot of opportunity for a lefty out of the bullpen to succeed."

Making his second tour in Double-A––albeit in a different league––Sndyer is once again having success. In 27.1 innings with the Frisco RoughRiders this year, the prospect has a 2.96 ERA, allowing 20 hits, walking 12, and striking out 22.

The 24-year-old is notoriously tough on his fellow lefties, as they posted a punchless .146/.198/.197 line against him last year with 57 strikeouts in 157 at-bats.

Snyder hides the ball well to left-handed hitters in a deceptive delivery, allowing his 86-89 mph fastball and sweeping mid-70s slider to play up a bit.

Though Snyder profiles as a lefty specialist at the big league level, he'll still need to improve against right-handed hitters, as they hit .296/.382/.447 off him at Double-A last season. While Snyder had a 57-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties, that number was just 29-to-28 against righties.

So far this season, Snyder has showed marked improvement against right-handed hitters, as they are just 11-for-55 [.200] against him with nine walks and 14 strikeouts.

Perhaps the primary reason for the progression has been the development of Snyder's changeup. In Wednesday's game against Midland, nearly all of his changeups [around seven or eight] resulted in swings and misses. The 79-80 mph pitch had plenty of deception with a bit of movement.

"The changeup has improved greatly," the reliever said. "I think the whole part of it is being able to locate it. Just making it look as much like my fastball as I can. When I keep the ball down, it's a little more deceptive."

Snyder's changeup command isn't perfect yet, but it looked much improved in Wednesday's outing. He left one up in the zone to RockHounds catcher Yusuf Carter, but the hitter was still caught out in front.

"I got away with one to Carter tonight," he said. "He swung through one that was about belt high. But when I keep the pitch down, it is doing alright for me."

The Ohio native hasn't made any adjustments with how he throws the changeup––he's simply getting a better feel for the pitch as he learns how to use it.

"I'm just having the mindset of just trying to throw it for a strike," Snyder said. "I'm trying to start it out at the knees and just let it work. Not really trying to strike guys out with it––try to get it off the end of the bat or try to get a weak ground ball out of it or something."

The development of Snyder's changeup is certainly an important progression, but he still must improve his fastball command to right-handed hitters. At the mid-to-upper-80s velocity, he doesn't have much room for error, and both of his home runs allowed this season have come to righties.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound hurler did see his velocity tick up a bit on Wednesday, as he sat at 88 mph and touched 90 after making a mechanical adjustment with his pitching coach.

"The past couple days, I've been working with Jeff Andrews on getting some mechanical things worked out," he said. "Tonight I felt good with it. It was the first time I've pitched in a game with it. I felt pretty confident.

"My front side, my glove hand, can get a little lazy. I'm just trying to get a little longer stride and a little more direction to home plate. I'm just trying to get a little more power––a little more velo out of me."

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