TRENTON, NJ – Matt Snyder certainly passes the eye test. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he definitely looks the part of a power hitter.
Just ask Thunder teammate Jonathan Holder, who remembers Snyder when he was at Mississippi State and Snyder was establishing himself at Ole Miss, where he ended his career tied for second in home runs with 41 and third in RBIs with 173. That SEC rivalry was the first thing Snyder experienced after arriving at the ballpark Saturday.
“I get on the field and Holder, who went to Mississippi State, starts giving me the business about Ole Miss (being eliminated in NCAA Regional play by Tulane, while Mississippi State is still alive),” said Snyder with a chuckle. “It’s good to have that SEC rivalry in the clubhouse.”
Snyder, who signed with the Yankees after being drafted in the 10th round in 2012, was projected as a power-hitting first baseman at the time. But his professional career has been star-crossed with injuries, including shoulder and ankle maladies that have limited him to 158 games in five seasons.
“With the injuries, and being on the DL, I just haven’t played in a lot of games,” said Snyder, a native of Centerville, Va., who will turn 26 June 17. “I hope I am past all that, and I just want to stay healthy and play in as many games as I can.”
“I work hard, trying to get back every year. It’s the kind of thing that makes you a stronger person,”
Things started off fine for Snyder in 2012. He earned a spot on the NYPL All-Star Team after batting .299 (58-for-187) with three home runs, 34 RBIs and an OPS of .825 in 52 games. Since then, he’s only been able to get into 106 more games in four seasons.
As a result, Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, who had Snyder DH in Game 2 of Saturday evening’s doubleheader with Erie, plans to bring him along at a slower pace.
“Matt will DH and play some first base,” said Mitchell. “I know he has a history of some bad-luck injuries, some of which were severe. He’s not at full strength, but he’s getting there. We’ll take it easy with him to start.”
“From what I hear, he can really hit.”
Snyder, whose dad, Brian, pitched for Seattle and Oakland, and brother, Brandon, played for Baltimore, Texas, Boston and now Atlanta, having been called up last week, feels he is “90-95 percent.” His twin brother, Mike, is presently playing with Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League after four seasons in the Angels’ system.
“How many guys can really say they are 100 percent?” he said. “We’re always out there getting our bodies banged around during the season. I would say I am definitely 90-95 percent. I’m feeling good.”
Snyder, who was 7-for-14 in three games with Tampa before an 0-for-3 effort in his 2016 Thunder debut, is glad to be back in Trenton, where the ankle injury limited him to four games in 2015.
He can tell he is healing from that injury.
“With my swing, it’s all starting to even out.” Snyder said. “I want to go up there, and have a competitive at-bat every time, be aggressive, especially with guys on base. I take a lot of pride in driving guys in.
“At the start, I try to hit line drives, then if all is working, try to adjust my trajectory. I’m really excited about joining this team. I heard a lot about how the pitchers are really throwing well. We have some great arms in there. I want to help get the hitting going.”
Yet, Snyder knows what he is coming back from.
“It will be a work in progress,” he said. “I haven’t played that many games. I have to be patient. I’m ready to go forward with whatever the skipper wants me to do.”
Healthy, Snyder can be a power factor. Just ask his SEC rival and now teammate Holder.