Brandon Snyder = Paul Konerko?

Whenever the O’s are mentioned by the (more advanced) general baseball media, I tend to take notice. So when Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus got the following question in a chat today (from Drungo, of Orioles Hangout fame I believe):

“Will any of the following players be on the Orioles in April: Bell, Snyder, Guthrie, Scott?”

My interest was piqued. It’s been a long time (relatively speaking) since BP was my primary source for baseball information/analysis, but they still do good work and I was curious to read his reply:

“Guthrie, who doesn’t have much trade value but is a useful innings guy. Scott really needs to be traded while his value is high. I saw both Bell and Snyder in AFL…Bell won’t play 150 games at third base in the majors. Snyder looks like he can be Paul Konerko without the peak.”

As a “useful innings guy” still under team control at below market rates, Guthrie does have some trade value but I take Sheehan’s point and agree he’s unlikely to be dealt.

I don’t see Scott’s performance dropping too much next season, though his value probably will as he accrues more service time (his value was highest in ’08 when he was playing a “plus” left-field, as opposed to being primarily a DH).

That comment on Bell is discouraging, but I’ve seen other reports that are more positive and I’d likely take the over on that 150 games (assuming some minimum number of games played in the majors overall, to focus the issue on this third-base play).

The Snyder comment is the one I don’t really understand. Brandon has yet to post a .500 SLG over the course of any full season in the minors, topping out at .490 in 2008. Konerko slugged .615 in 868 career plate appearances in Triple-A, mostly at the ages of 21-22 (so he was a little ahead of Snyder based on age). Going over to plate discipline, Snyder has improved his and posted a 9.6% walk rate and about a 2:1 strike-out to walk ratio last season (it was 6.3% and closer to 3:1 in ’08). Konerko, on the other hand, walked 12.1% of the time and was at about 1:1 K to BB in the upper levels of the minors – including 64 walks to 61 K’s in his Triple-A season at age 21 (his first go-around at that level). I don’t really see the comparison, except that they’re both right-handed hitting first-basemen of similar size.

To say that Snyder can be Konerko without the peak means what – that he’ll hit in his better years like Konerko did in his normal ones (something like the .298/.363/.481 of 2000 – his .368 wOBA was about average for his career but below his .385-ish peak)? If that’s the case – and that doesn’t seem like an unreasonable expectation – then why even bother with the comparison? It’s just a very confusing way of talking about the player – to me at least. Konerko is more a power and patience guy (.277/.352/.491 career, though he did hit .334 at the Triple-A level), while Snyder is supposed to be about batting average with the hopes that he develops enough power and patience to go along with it to keep him valuable. Heck, the recently departed (from the O’s) Aubrey Huff (career .282/.340/.472, stretch of ~ .305/.365/.525 seasons in his prime) gives you a pretty good upside comp that you don’t need to stretch or explain too much (I don’t think Snyder will ever hit 34 HR though). Or James Loney (career .295/.354/451), though he isn’t an “established” player yet.

I am pretty comfortable in saying that Brandon Snyder != something close to Paul Konerko, though I would be very happy to have to admit that I was wrong.

In any case, it’s nice that the Orioles have players actually worth discussing at this point.

[Edit: I’m being too hard on Sheehan, though the shapes of Konerko and Snyder’s skill sets are different enough that I don’t think it’s a matter of degree in projecting Brandon going forward. I think Snyder can (on the high end) reach Konerko’s batting average peak but not his walk and HR peaks. The original statement just hit me very weirdly when I read it initially.]