David Price Compares Blake Snell to 2009 Version of Himself

Aug 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox and former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price (24) watches from the dugout during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox and former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price (24) watches from the dugout during the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price was recently quoted as saying that Snell is going to be fine, and is going to work things out in the minors. Will he though?

Last Friday, former Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price stated that “his [Snell] stuff was better than my stuff at his age.  I like his stuff way more.”  Sure, that’s agreeable.  Price had the fastball (73%)/slider (16.4%) combination, but the current curveball/changeup combination he possesses now, was merely just a work in progress, throwing each pitch 3.7% and 6.4% respectively.

Pitchers with a fastball/slider combination always present a risk of becoming just a two-pitch pitcher and ending up in the bullpen, so learning a third-pitch (change-up) was ever present for Price, and he was in the system to do so.

Snell featured a solid four pitch mix the moment he stepped in the majors, throwing both a slider and curveball (approximately 12.5% each), and a changeup (17.8%). Price’s statement holds true on that end.

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Snell’s slider velocity is up 1.6 mph in 2017 to 84.2 mph and his curveball is up 1.4 mph to 77.3 mph, while his change-up has dropped just a minuscule amount to 84.9 mph.  Averaging 93.5 mph with his fastball, he certainly displays a strong big league repertoire.  It’s just a matter of commanding his pitches, not getting behind hitters and putting batters away with two strikes.

"“In 2009 I stunk, but I got better. It takes guys probably 30-35 starts.” Price said encouragingly."

In 2009, after throwing 14 innings during the franchise’s first World Series run, Price posted a 10-7 record with a 4.42 ERA in 128 1/3 innings.

That’s not too shabby, considering the team finished 84-78, good for third place and missing the playoffs.  However, he also had just 7.15 K/9 and a 3.79 BB/9.  Those aren’t franchise-ace numbers.

David Price followed his mediocre 2009 with a breakout 2010.  He won 19 games, eclipsed 200 innings for the first time, trimmed off some of the walks and home runs allowed, finishing second in the Cy Young race behind Felix Hernandez.  Luckily Felix’s perfect game against Tampa Bay wouldn’t happen until 2012.

Speaking of 2012, Price dropped the slider completely that season (hasn’t thrown one since 2011), and adopted a cutter-curveball-changeup off speed set. 20-5, 2.56, 205 K (8.74 K/9, 2.52 BB/9) and his first (and only) Cy Young award.

We all know how the rest of the David Price story went, as Rays fans patiently await the debut of top prospect Willy Adames, whom was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Price to Detroit in 2014.

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Snell established himself as the organization’s top prospect following a stellar 2015 campaign, amounting a 15-4 record across three levels (A-AAA), with a 1.41 combined-ERA (he did not allow a single earned run in 21 innings at A-Charlotte), and 163 strikeouts in 134 innings of work.  That’s a respectable 10.8 K/9 and 3.08 BB/9.  He was undoubtedly named the organization’s pitcher of the year.

In 2016, Snell saw his first taste of the big leagues, throwing just 89 innings in 19 starts.  Sure, he had a decent 3.54 ERA and a solid 9.91 K/9 but the command issues were very apparent (5.16 BB/9).

The control issues weren’t a new subject for Snell, as before his meteoric rise in 2015, he had high walk numbers the two seasons prior across low-A Bowling Green and high-A Charlotte.  In 2013-14, Snell walked 6.6 and 4.4 per nine respectively.

Back to 2017, Snell’s season-high of 6 2/3 innings pitched came in his season-debut against Toronto, a 7-2 loss for the Rays.  However, that was the only game this season Snell even eclipsed the six-inning mark.

In 42 innings (eight starts), Snell is win less with a poor 4.71 ERA and 25 walks.  He’s also been tagged for 34 hits (six home runs).  As of his demotion on May 13, he put up just 7.29 K/9 and an elevated 5.36 BB/9.

So, how similar are these two southpaws?  Price seems to think Snell is going to be fine.  “He’ll get through it, [Jim Hickey] will help him out.  It takes some time. This game ain’t easy, especially at that age.”

Snell’s high walk rate has always made him a risk.  Some guys with plus stuff and below-average command figure it out (Noah Syndergaard, Lance McCullers, Chris Archer), some guys don’t and ultimately end up as back-end rotation or bullpen arms.  Snell’s hype going into 2016 had fans thinking he was the next homegrown front of the rotation starter, but right now Snell’s potential seems limited.

Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins has reacted beautifully to starting the season in AAA, as has been masterful in two MLB starts in 2017.  Hopefully the same is in store for Snell, as he certainly has the plus stuff to be a good MLB starter.

If Price’s words hold true about a guy needing 30-35 starts to establish himself, then we will know who Snell truly is after he is promoted to the MLB again, as Snell currently stands at 27 career MLB starts.

To wrap everything up, I do not believe Blake Snell and David Price are comparable pitchers in terms of struggles, but if Snell learns to command his four-pitch mix, then he will have a memorable MLB career.

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Snell faces off against the Gwinnett Braves and top-prospect hurler Lucas Sims (4-0, 2.16 ERA) on Friday night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.