Who is Forrest Snow, and Why Is He Smiling?

marc w · October 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Seattle native Forrest Snow got some attention by moving from single A Clinton to AAA Tacoma this year, but his arsenal was something of a mystery. How’d a guy that got shelled at the University of Washington shut down a AAA line-up? How is a guy with a poor FIP above class A shutting down the Arizona Fall League? Today offered our first nibble of pitch fx data on Snow, and while he wasn’t quite as dominant today as he was earlier in the month, and while he’ll likely be upstaged by Danny Hultzen, he showed enough stuff to prove that this isn’t purely luck. Snow’s legit, and he’s opening some eyes in the AFL.

Snow graduated from noted baseball powerhouse Lakeside then spent three years as a UW Husky. He struck out a batter an inning, but a poor walk rate and a worse HR rate made his RA look ugly (7.3!), so his draft stock in 2010 wasn’t exactly Hultzenesque. He was picked in the 36th round, and signed quickly enough to make 10 appearances with Everett the same year (all in relief). He moved into the rotation to start 2011 with the Clinton Lumberkings, and while he was effective, he was overshadowed by the breakout performances of Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. He moved up to high A High Desert where HRs again proved an issue, then came up to Tacoma in July. He made a few appearances in relief, but turned in two very solid starts including this 7-IP gem against Omaha. After starting the year facing teenagers in the MWL, his strikeout rate peaked in Tacoma (in the run-addled PCL).

The M’s sent Snow to the Arizona Fall League this year, and he’s been lights out so far, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up one hit, one walk while striking out eight. He had a reputation in Tacoma as a hard worker, but I still didn’t know if his stuff was fringe-y. Today, we got our first look at pitch FX data on Snow; it’s only a seven batter sample, but it’s something. Snow throws a low-90s fastball (he touched 94, but averaged 92mph with his fastball today), a change-up and a slider/slurve. In Tacoma, his change-up was reputed to be more advanced than the slider, and while he used the change more today, it’s way too early to say much about either offering.

His fastball looked very interesting however – he threw all of 15 of them today, but they showed noticeable rise thanks to well-above average backspin. His pfx z (the vertical “drop” on his pitches”) was above MLB average – closer to guys like Jered Weaver or Josh Collmenter. But while the latter gets essentially no horizontal movement thanks to an extreme over-the-top delivery, Snow gets a ton of armside break. That should help him avoid big platoon splits, as his FB will act a bit more like two-seamers (or like a cross between a ‘jumping’ fastball and a ‘rider’ in Max Marchi’s taxonomy).

His spin rate on these pitches was actually greater than pitchers like Weaver – it was in Justin Verlander’s class. This isn’t to say that he’ll be Justin Verlander; he doesn’t throw 100mph. But according to new (proprietary) data, there may be a correlation between spin rate and swinging strikes, so this will be something to watch as Snow moves through the AFL. Along with that backspin and ‘rise’ *should* come an increased fly ball rate (and thus HR rate). To date, he hasn’t really shown clear fly-ball or grounder tendencies (he was a fly-baller in his short stint in Tacoma, but a GB guy in 2010 and in the AFL so far), so it may be that his HRs stem from a combination of movement and location (shocking, I know).

All in all, Snow’s made the biggest jump of anyone in the M’s farm system, at least amongst the youngsters (the Disney-class stories of Tom Wilhelmsen and Steve Delabar are a separate case). He’s gone from an org-level reliever to a guy who’s had a bit of success as a starter in AAA, and we now know his fastball is MLB-quality in movement and velocity. This isn’t someone who’s Vasquez’d his way past low-level hitters – he may be, as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus noted the other day, “one of the best pitching prospects nobody has heard of.”

Forrest Snow

In a purple jersey one last time


12 Responses to “Who is Forrest Snow, and Why Is He Smiling?”

  1. gag harbor on October 13th, 2011 11:52 pm

    God we need some good stories around here! Watching Zduriencik’s Brewers battle with the Cards in NLCS. Hoping the Mariners are on track soon but with a better Short Stop than that Yuni character. If Snow continues to impress do you see him potentially making the club out of ST?

  2. ajoster on October 14th, 2011 7:14 am

    Good story. The M’s need a few guys like this to work out.

  3. BillH on October 14th, 2011 7:33 am

    Great post. Thanks for the info.

  4. JC Intellectual on October 14th, 2011 9:18 am

    Great link to the SI Verducci article. Using the same math approach as in the delivery chart, the velo improvement by scaling a ML avg 6’3″ pitcher up to 6’8″ (all else equal) is about .6 mph. More if compared to a 6 footer (over 1 mph), and still more including the downward plane effect. Go Doug!

  5. Jordan on October 14th, 2011 11:18 am

    Great info.

    With Hultzen, Paxton, and now Snow + eventually Walker, Campos etc.

    or perhaps Beavan or Furbush become more than passable 4/5s

    I don’t understand why we can’t dangle these guys for MLB quality hitters? I know watching Fister crush it in Detroit hurts, but c’mon.

    Who am I kidding, we can’t have nice things.

  6. Chris_From_Bothell on October 14th, 2011 11:44 am

    I don’t understand why we can’t dangle these guys for MLB quality hitters? I know watching Fister crush it in Detroit hurts, but c’mon.Who am I kidding, we can’t have nice things.

    Perhaps because they haven’t even finished the LCS yet. I’d expect there would be no hot stove action until after the WS. (Well, except the whole Red Sox disintegration and chatter and front office movement, because they have no respect for the game and act like the WS was cancelled just because they collapsed.)

    Even right after the WS, I’d think most roster movement would be rule 5 deadline sorts of 40-man roster cleanup, and some looking ahead to arbitration deadlines.

    The horse trading won’t start in earnest until the winter meetings, IMO. If Z hasn’t imported some quality position players by the end of the year, then yeah, something something pitching surplus something get a bat already mumble mumble we can never have nice things wharrrgarbl.

  7. Jordan on October 14th, 2011 1:38 pm

    Perhaps because they haven’t even finished the LCS yet.

    Chris, I was really just emphasizing how much pitching surplus we seem to have for the posters that are afraid of parting with someone like Pineda or Fister and watching them become stars elsewhere; there is no reason not to be excited about the future rotation possibilities.

    Fast forward to the meetings and let the horse trading begin!

  8. Chris_From_Bothell on October 14th, 2011 6:49 pm

    Jordan – gotcha. Didn’t mean to come across as snarky or patronizing, sorry if i did. I agree that there’s enough depth around that there’s no reason to expect a quiet winter or that the pitching will evaporate if one or two pieces go…

  9. Jordan on October 14th, 2011 10:46 pm

    No worries. A large portion of communication is visual and sometimes it’s hard with just words. We’ll both just wait patiently for the winter to unfold. Lots of question marks but still some reason for modest optimism in 2012. Can’t wait!

  10. akampfer on October 15th, 2011 8:42 am

    This guy is an example of why the M’s need to spend their high draft picks on offense. They have great pitching coming up, let’s develop some hitters. Looking forward to spring training to see what they have.

  11. Ibuprofen on October 15th, 2011 10:50 am

    This guy is an example of why the M’s need to spend their high draft picks on offense.

    You spend your high draft picks on the best talent available, regardless of whether it’s offense or defense.

  12. skit on October 17th, 2011 3:05 am

    I played two years of Little League on a team with Forrest and he had filthy stuff, even back then. It probably helped that his dad was our coach. Meanwhile I was hidden in right field, staring at my shoelaces and praying the innings would be over soon. Despite my resounding failure as an athlete, I still wear the fresh Northwest Little League hat thanks to its adjustable clasp. I hope they call him up soon so I can drunkenly brag about having played with major league talent.

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