With the exception of a few weeks right after he came up, there was no point in this season when "Gregory Polanco will be in the minors on August 29" should have been a big surprise to anyone. His long-term prognosis is still great, but recent young guys coming up and doing really well have spoiled us.
The Pirates did the right thing bringing Polanco up, and probably did the right thing sending him back down, even if it's only for the few days before September call-ups.
In the meantime - and, considering Polanco's recent struggles and Andrew McCutchen's recent injuries - the Pirates do have an outfield to fill out. And the person who's been doing that filling of late is Ol' Lunchbox himself, Travis Snider.
Snider is the epitome of the post-hype sleeper. He was supposed to be a stud in Toronto, debuting as a 20-year-old and hitting well in 80 plate appearances. After that, though, he never could put it together, and left Toronto in 2012 with an OPS+ that was looking up at 100, which, for a poor defensive corner outfielder, is not really acceptable.
As a Pirate, Snider hasn't fared better. He hit .25/0.324/.328 in part of 2012, then .215/.281/.333 as a bench player last season. The bloom was fully off the rose, six seasons into a major-league career with a sub-.400 slugging percentage, an 89 OPS+, and only 37 homers in 1,347 plate appearances.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>the craziest thing is Bryce Harper could struggle for five more years and we'd all be like "HE'S ONLY 26, JUST WAIT"</p>— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) <a href="https://twitter.com/CespedesBBQ/statuses/500306039980711936">August 15, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Snider is only 26 years old.
Okay, that's not exactly fair, because no, Travis Snider is not Bryce Harper. Then again ... he kind of is, isn't he? At least, in a super poor man's sense? Harper has been "disappointing" (not really at all, but still), with people wondering if he needs to be sent down and all that jazz. Those people ignore the fact that Harper is 21 years old with a career 119 OPS+, of course, but we can at least say that he's struggled enough that people can talk.
Snider, of course, has struggled far more than Harper ever has. But the main point I'm making is that he's still only 26 years old. And this year, in limited play, Snider is hitting .262/.327/.422, good for a 110 OPS+ that is his best since his rookie cup of coffee.
It's late in the season. There aren't really any under-the-radar game-changers to be snagged. But Snider has played in the Pirates' last 28 games, starting in 22 of them. In that time - basically since Polanco started really struggling - Snider is hitting .272/.309/.467 with four homers.
It's possible this is a dead-cat bounce for a player whose bloom long ago fell off the rose. But there is also the remote possibility that Snider is tasting a small piece of that potential we saw in him so long ago. Either way, though, for now he's basically a full-time player (even if Polanco returns soon, McCutchen is not at 100 percent, and Polanco was sent down for a reason) who is only owned in 9 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
If you're desperate for someone late in the season, Snider is the kind of guy you can grab while he's hot. If he cools off, drop him, oh well. If he doesn't, even better. Either way, he's worth a look.