Blake Snell

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Blake Ashton Snell

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Biographical Information[edit]

Blake Snell was a supplemental first round pick in the 2011 amateur draft.

Snell had a 1.00 ERA and fanned 128 in 63 innings as a high school senior. He had a commitment to the University of Washington when the Tampa Bay Rays took him in 52nd in the 2011 draft; the pick was compensation for the loss of Brad Hawpe to free agency. Blake was the 7th of ten first-rounders for the Rays, following Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook, Jake Hager, Brandon Martin, Tyler Goeddel and Jeff Ames. He signed quickly and debuted for the GCL Rays on June 28th against the GCL Red Sox. Working one inning, he allowed a hit and a walk but struck out the side.

Snell was picked as a member of the United States team in the 2015 Futures Game. He was named the winner of the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year Award for 2015 after going a combined 15-4, 1.41 in Class A, AA and AAA. He began the year with the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State League and was 3-0 while throwing 21 consecutive scoreless innings to earn a promotion to the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League. He threw another 25 consecutive scoreless innings there, to extend the streak to 49 innings before allowing a run on May 23rd. He finished the year by going 6-2, 1.83 in 9 starts for the Durham Bulls of the International League. After the season he was named the Baseball America and the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year.

After starting the 2016 season in the minors, Blake was called up on April 23rd to make his major league debut for the Rays against the New York Yankees. His first big league inning was rough, as he needed 24 pitches to get through and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, but he settled down after that and did not give up anything else over the next four innings, ending up with a no-decision as the Rays lost, 3-2. He went 6-8, 3.54 in 19 starts that first season, although he pitched just 89 innings, because he tended to need a lot of pitches to get outs. He ended up with both a high strikeout and walk rate, at 98 Ks and 51 Ws. In 2017, he made 24 starts, going 5-7, 4.04. He managed to pitch somewhat deeper into games by lowering both his K rate and his walk rate.

In 2018 he took a big step forward, as he set a new personal high for wins by recording number 7 on the year on May 29th. In his next start on June 3rd, he tied an American League record by striking out the first 7 batters he faced in a game against the Mariners. Joe Cowley, in 1986, and Carlos Rodon, in 2016, were the two other pitchers to manage the feat, while National Leaguers Jim Deshaies and Jacob deGrom held the major league record with 8. Snell wasn't done, though, as after retiring Denard Span on a ground ball, he struck out Mike Zunino to end the 3rd, On his way to striking out 12 in 6 scoreless innings. However, he had to settle for a no-decision as the Mariners came back to score twice in the bottom of the 8th to eke out a 2-1 win. On June 25th, he took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Washington Nationals before allowing a lead-off double to Anthony Rendon. He received credit for a 10-0 win that day. In spite of a 12-4 record and an AL-leading 2.09 ERA when the initial participants in the 2018 All-Star Game were announced on July 8th, he was not one of the players called. Many writers noted that he was simply a victim of every team needing to have at least one representative at the game, with Ps Jose Berrios, J.A. Happ and Joe Jimenez taking up spots that could have been his because of that provision. He was eventually named, as a replacement for Corey Kluber, who sat out the game under the Sunday Starter rule. He made a brief stay on the disabled list in late July, then in his second start after his return, on August 10th, he pitched five perfect innings against the Toronto Blue Jays before being pulled out in spite of having needed just 47 pitches. Manager Kevin Cash explained that he had not pitched that many innings in a month and that the Rays did not want him to have to warm up to start another inning. Jake Faria gave up a single to the first batter he faced in the 6th, Luke Maile, but he and Jaime Schultz combined to complete the shutout started by Snell, a 7-0 win. On August 26th, he defeated the Boston Red Sox, 9-1 to improve to 16-5 and complete the first sweep of the major league-leading Sox by any team that season. It was also the 8th straight win by the Rays. A few days later, he was named the AL Pitcher of the Month, having gone 4-0, 1.04 in five August starts. On September 12th, he took a no-hit bid into the 7th inning against the Cleveland Indians before allowing a solo homer to José Ramírez; he ended up a 3-1 winner, his major league-leading 19th win of the year. He became a 20-game winner for the first time on September 18th, when he won his next start against the Texas Rangers, 4-0. That also tied David Price's Rays team record for most wins in a season. He also reached the 200-strikeout mark for the first time in that start. He repeated as Pitcher of the Month in September as he went 5-0, 1.26 to finish at 21-5, 1.89, with 221 strikeouts in 180 2/3 innings. He was then voted the winner of the 2018 American League Cy Young Award.

On March 21, 2019, he signed a five-year extension with the Rays worth $50 million. He was selected to be the team's opening day starter on March 28th, facing the Houston Astros and Justin Verlander, who had been the runner-up in the Cy Young vote. Having the top two finishers in the voting face each other on opening day was a rarity - it had only happened a couple of times in 40 years - but ironically it was the case in both leagues that season, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer also squaring off in the National League. He lost on opening day, but was just as good as his Cy Young season in his next three starts, as he gave up just 1 run in a total of 19 innings, with a K/W ratio of 33/2 as the Rays got off to a great start. Only a freak injury could stop him, as he broke a toe while getting out of the shower. That forced him to miss one start. He struggled badly in June, going 2-3, 9.64 in 6 starts, but seemed to have turned things around in July, as he gave up just 2 runs in his first 16 innings. However, on July 25th, he was placed on the injured list in order to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow in order to remove loose bodies. The Rays were hopeful he would be able to return by September, but in the meantime the team had sputtered after its great start, having been distanced by the first-place New York Yankees and caught and passed by the Boston Red Sox. He returned on September 17th and made three relief appearances, suffering a loss to finish at 6-8, 4.29. He made the team's postseason roster, starting Game 2 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros on October 5th. He gave up just 1 run in 3 1/3 innings, but was charged with a 3-1 loss. He made two more appearances in the series, both in relief, earning a save with two-thirds of an inning in Game 4, and then adding 1 1/3 innings without a run in Game 5, which the Rays lost.

In 2020, with baseball shut down by the global coronavirus pandemic, he won the "MLB The Show" video game tournament put together instead. He defeated Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox in the finale on May 3rd. A few days later, he was among the first players to react to the owners plan to start the season around July 4th without spectators present. The issue that irked him was that the owners wanted the Players Association to accept a form of revenue sharing in addition to already agreed upon salary cuts. He strongly objected to the idea of players taking more of a financial penalty while they would be the ones risking their health - not the owners. He went on to go 4-2, 3.24 in 11 starts during the abbreviated season, striking out 63 batters in 50 innings as the Rays posted the best record in the American League. The low number of wins and innings was a symptom of the fact the Rays management aggressively limited the length of his outings, almost never letting him face a batter for the third time during the season. He opened the Rays' postseason by limiting the Toronto Blue Jays to 1 hit in 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series on September 29th, picking up a 3-1 win. He had a number of outstanding outings as the Rays made it to the World Series for the second time in franchise history, but the 5 2/3 innings in his first postseason game were the most he pitched in his six starts. Infamously, he was having a tremendous outing in Game 6 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 27 having limited them to just 2 hits while striking out 9 batters through two turns through the batting order and 5 1/3 innings. However, manager Kevin Cash decided to take him out at that point, replacing him with struggling reliever Nick Anderson. The decision blew up in the Rays' face, as Anderson allowed two runs to score in the remainder of the inning (one was charged to Snell) and the Rays never regained the lead, losing the game and the Series. The decision unleashed a torrent of second-guessing around baseball.

On December 27, 2020, rumors began to circulate that the Rays had reached a deal to trade Snell to the San Diego Padres in return for four prospects: Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt and Cole Wilcox. The benefit was clear for San Diego, an up-and-coming team looking for an ace with Mike Clevinger sidelined for the upcoming season with Tommy John surgery, and the package of youngsters was an interesting one for the Rays, but the fact was that combined with the loss of Charlie Morton to free agency, it left the defending American League champions with a very thin starting rotation to defend their hard-won title. He was a major disappointment for the Padres in the first half of the 2021 season, as he went just 3-3, 4.99, when he had been counted on to pitch like an ace. Things went better starting in August, when he had a great month, going 3-1, 1.72 in 6 starts. In his final start of the month on August 31st, he went 7 hitless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks before being lifted. He had needed 107 pitches to go that far, and manager Jayce Tingler decided there was no point in shooting for history. Had teammate Joe Musgrove not ended the Padres' infamous 53-year no-hitter drought back in April, he may have thought differently, but that day Tingler did not hesitate to call upon reliever Pierce Johnson, who surrendered a hit with one out in the 8th (closer Mark Melancon allowed a couple more in the 9th in notching the save). Snell received credit for the 3-0 win.

Blake's father, Dave Snell, has been head coach at Shoreline Community College.

Notable Achievements[edit]

AL Cy Young Award
2017 2018 2019
Corey Kluber Blake Snell Justin Verlander

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Bumbaca: "Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell explains why he's against splitting revenue with MLB: 'I'm risking my life'", USA Today, May 14, 2020. [1]
  • Kevin T. Czerwinski: "Rays lefty Blake Snell is USA TODAY Sports' Minor League Player of the Year", USA Today Sports, September 9, 2015. [2]
  • Mike Lupica: "Snell's case for AL Cy Young is very strong: Rays' ace poised to join elite company with Gooden, Blue, McLain",, September 20, 2018. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "'We're in a new year:' Blake Snell focused on Padres, not dwelling on World Series nightmare", USA Today, March 4, 2021. [4]
  • Mike Petriello: "Snell building Cy Young case with historic ERA: 1.24 home mark best by AL pitcher since Vida Blue in 1971",, September 13, 2018. [5]

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