The Rays drafted Snell with the seventh of their 10 first-round picks that year, as a supplemental pick for the loss of Brad Hawpe. He will be the third member of that class to make it to the bigs (Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Goeddel being the other two). Snell didn’t get off to the greatest start in his pro career, as he struggled to throw strikes and prior to 2015 had a walk rate of 4.9 in 287 innings. But he did showcase a premium arsenal with a strikeout rate of 9.5. Things finally clicked for the tall lefty in 2015, as he lowered his walk rate to 3.6, improved his strikeout rate to 10.9, posted an ERA of 1.41, and finished with a masterful nine starts in Triple-A. All of this made Blake Snell our Top Prospect for the Rays for 2016, as well as 21st in our top 101
When he was drafted Snell was a raw, inconsistent lefty out of the Seattle area, flashing feel for pitching as well as a long projectable body to dream on. It took a while for the command and pitches to take a step forward, but he firmly blew down the door in 2015. His fastball is 92-94 and will touch 96 when he needs it, but the pitch plays to double-plus with plus movement that generates a lot of weak contact and awkward movement. His primary off-speed pitch is a slider with really hard downward tilt, and he is comfortable throwing away to LHH. (He's also comfortable burying the hopes and dreams of RHH.) His changeup flashes plus because of his arm speed and the offering's late drop, though the pitch is behind his others in terms of overall command as he struggles to leave the pitch up. He always had a feel to pitch but the numbers finally backed it up, as he showcases above-average control and average command of his arsenal. His long-term outlook has top-of-the-rotation stuff, but pitching in the big leagues is hard and it needs to be seen how his strike-throwing ways will do against big-league hitters.
Immediate Big-League Future
Snell looking to make what looks to be a spot start on Saturday in place of Erasmo Ramirez, and he will more than likely be sent back down right after the appearance. Ramirez has done well in his starting rotation appearances so there isn’t an everyday spot for Snell yet. But as the season goes along and other opportunities arise, he will be the first guy called back up. —Steve Givarz
Seemingly overnight, Snell became one of the premier pitching prospects in fantasy baseball last year, posting a 1.41 ERA and striking out 31.3 percent of the batters he faced across three minor-league levels. He has power stuff to back up those gaudy strikeout numbers, too, which is important to recognize when projecting minor-league statistics to translate to the major-league level. The southpaw is a potential 200-strikeout monster who will only be held back by his proclivity for the free pass. If he can improve his control and decrease the walk rate—both far easier said than done—his ceiling is that of a top-tier fantasy starter in any format. For now, though, fantasy owners should view Snell as a great source of strikeouts in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, which should help him post a respectable ERA.
Snell is worth picking up in all leagues and in all formats. Over an entire season, he could easily be a top-30 starter. He could very well be the second- or third-best starter on the Rays by the end of the year, depending on your feelings about Matt Moore. Owners should feel comfortable spending $15-18 in FAAB in mixed leagues and upward of $25-30 in AL-only leagues. The 23-year-old will be one of numerous exciting young pitchers who will be getting big-league promotions in the coming month—perhaps most notably Jose Berrios, Aaron Blair, and Sean Manaea—but Snell has a good shot to be the best of the lot when the year is done. —J.P. Breen
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