WASHINGTON - In a normal season, Brandon Snyder, Jake Noll, and Andrew Stevenson – at the very least – would be getting four at-bats on a regular basis while playing for one of the top farm teams of the Nationals with a shot at playing time in the majors.
This, of course, is not a normal season thanks to the pandemic.
So the trio of position players, all of whom have Major League experience, has spent the bulk of the past few weeks at the alternate site in Fredericksburg as part of the 60-player pool in the Washington system.
“It is sort of difficult to mirror what happens in a real game. But they are staying in shape. They are getting a lot of at-bats, they are getting a lot of reps,” Tommy Shields, the co-field coordinator in Fredericksburg, told Federal Baseball on Wednesday. “You don’t have the adjustments or the ups and downs you would have during the season.”
“They are not carrying the one-for-12 (slump) with them. Everything is fresh. The competition is high as it can be but it probably can’t mirror what would happen during the regular season” in normal times, added Shields, a Fairfax native who played in the majors for the Orioles and Cubs. “We do have some challenges. I think they are improving. But I am not sure you get the same sort of development you would get in a regular season” in the minors.
Snyder, 33, a product of Westfield High in Northern Virginia, has been playing pro ball for 15 years and is the son of a former Major League pitcher – Brandon, a Chantilly (Va.) High graduate who pitched for Seattle and Oakland.
The younger Snyder was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2005 and played for the Orioles in 2010 and 2011.
Since then, he has seen time in the majors with Texas in 2012, Boston in 2013, Atlanta in 2016, and Tampa Bay in 2018.
Snyder was part of the Double-A Bowie Baysox that won the Eastern League title in 2015 as a Baltimore affiliate.
Last year the right-handed hitter was at Triple-A Fresno in Washington’s system and hit .257 with 31 homers in 117 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
“He is catching a lot, which adds another weapon in his arsenal, to help the big-league club,” Shields said.
Snyder has been working with Randy Knorr, the Triple-A manager who caught in the majors with several teams, including Montreal in 2001. He is a former bench coach with the Nationals.
“His throwing has improved,” Shields said of Snyder. “He has professional at-bats. He knows how to work a walk. He has power to all fields. He has hit a lot of home runs down here during camp. He is one of the senior leaders in the camp. He helps out the younger guys. They sort of look to him with his experience and he kind of embraces that role.”
The versatile Jake Noll, 26, who made his Major League debut last year with the Nationals, was drafted by Washington out of Florida Gulf Coast in the seventh round in 2016.
Last year he hit .285 with 11 homers in 118 games for Triple-A Fresno.
“Jake can play third, first, second, left. If you had to you could stick him in right,” Shields said. “Jake can really hit. Jake is a good hitter. He is a line-drive hitter – he uses the whole field. He is quick inside (with pitches). He has surprising pop – he is just having a great camp.”
“He is one of the guys pitchers don’t like to see up the plate,” Shields added. “I hope he gets a chance to show what he can do at the big-league [level] at some point. He is a great kid and he is working hard. He has gotten much better defensively. I think he is a guy if he was given a week to 10 days to prove what he can do would surprise some people. We are getting him work all over (on defense). We actually have more position players right now they we had during this entire time” at the alternate site.
Noll hit 16 homers for Single-A Hagerstown in 2016 and reached Double-A Harrisburg for the first time two years later. He also played in the Arizona Fall League in 2018.
“During the last couple of games we have been able to put a defense out there. He is playing first, he is playing second, he is playing third,” Shields said Wednesday. “We are not playing him in the outfield as much so we can give those other guys some reps. He is doing very well.”
Stevenson, 26 and a speedy outfielder, was drafted in the second round out of LSU by the Nationals in 2015 and broke into the majors two years later. He has seen time in the majors every year since then but has only 167 total at-bats, including just five this year.
“He is getting his work in on defense. He is getting his at-bats and competing at a high level,” Shields said. “He knows what type of player he is, which is line drives all over the field. He has a good eye, he is a professional. He continues to do what makes him a valuable member of our club.”