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AngelsWin Today: Angels D.J Snelten lining up for a return to the Majors

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Everybody loves a good comeback story, whether its Angel fans looking for a 2024 that will put the doubters in place, or the many professional ballplayers grinding under the radar for a shot at career revitalizations come next season. The 2024 Angels looks to be a launchpad for those on the fringes looking for a way in after an offseason that saw the organization sign multiple free agents out of Indyball on minor league contracts. The general baseball media tends to gloss over minor league free agent deals with most of them amounting to low impact depth offerings. However, every once in a while a team truly does strike upon impact talent existing on the fringes of professional baseball. One such talent on the cusp of their own comeback story is LHP D.J Snelten, a former Major League pitcher for the San Francisco Giants who now looks to reintroduce himself to the world of baseball as a member of the big league Angels. Where once stood a deceptive soft tossing lefty now stands an overtly dominant fireballer with a chip on his shoulder and a fresh edge on the game. Throw out all the video, stat sheets, and scouting reports from years past; this D.J Snelten is far removed from the niche off-speed centric pitcher who struggled to find his feet with the Giants five years ago. 

djsneltz.jpegSnelten’s initial big league offerings in 2018 saw him live off deception with the majority of his repertoire registering under 80 mph despite the big physical offering of the 6’6, 240 pound Snelten. Aside from his fastball, which averaged 89 mph in 2018, Snelten’s secondary offerings all came under 80 mph with his changeup averaging 77 mph while his slider sat around 79. Though he registered 63% of his outs as ground balls his low velo repertoire left him vulnerable to the barrel as hitters managed a 47.7% hard hit rate and 10.5 barrel percentage against his stuff. Despite a largely successful MLB debut that saw Snelten retire four of the six batters he faced (one hit one walk) just three appearances later he found himself out of a job as the Giants DFA’ed him just before his 26th birthday.

“I'll always be appreciative of the time that I had with the Giants. We were always working on things, always trying to make adjustments. There was a time where I was worrying about my velocity and what had been happening, they told me my mechanics had transpired into something more deceptive. They wanted me to go with it and I did, but I didn't really pay close attention to the trends I was following. By the time I got on top of things I found myself out of the organization and out in Baltimore [Orioles]."

Snelten saw action in 22 games for the Orioles Triple A affiliate before turning to the Indyball Chicago Dogs in 2019 and finding success through 118.1 IP of 3.12 ERA baseball. Though he would end up signing a contract with the Rays in December of 2019 he would see no action with the COVID pandemic cancelling the 2020 MiLB season. Snelten signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs shortly after the lost year, though fortunes would once again turn sour as he missed the 2021 and 2022 seasons to Tommy John surgery/recovery. Snelten would have no option but to pursue surgery and rehab on his own behalf, leaving him to his own devices in seeking medical treatment and a potential future in the game.

“I showed up to spring training and got an MRI, found out that I had a stress fracture in my sublime tubercle which is the connection point of the UCL ligament. Although the majority of my UCL was torn there was no signs of a singular event happening. It looked like chronic wear and tear over years of pro ball. The doctors didn't find it was worth mentioning until I'd had it looked at again. I ended up throwing for a couple of teams and one of them was nice enough to let me know that, in the current state of my condition, they didn't think I’d get signed until I got it fixed. I underwent Tommy John surgery by myself with no affiliation. I ended up going down that journey of learning how to rehab and take care of myself, find the local rehab clinic and see if there was another opportunity [in baseball]. I was very fortunate to have one.”

Only the strongest of substances can survive the hottest flames, and with D.J Snelten being tempered under the proverbial heat of the sun you can be sure the strength of what is now can cut through any steel. Snelten now exists in a form completely unrecognizable from his 2018 debut season; now armed with a piercing fastball that tops out at 102mph, a buffed up secondary that bites in the mid 80's, and a new mentality as the dog that eats in this dog eat dog world of Major League Baseball. Whereas before Snelten was protecting his vulnerabilities from being exposed on the mound he now stands capable of exploiting hitters weaknesses and bullying them into submission. Prior to this past year Snelten averaged an 8.85 K/9 through seven seasons across the Minor Leagues and Indyball (2013-2019), yet his 2023 outings in Triple A with the Yankees and the Indyball Chicago Dogs saw him post strikeout rates of 12 and 14.8 respectively.  

dj.jpg“It's a lot different competing at 96, 98, 99 [mph] than it is competing at 88 to 90. If you're not perfect with your pitches at 88 you're gonna be humbled and they're gonna keep you honest really quickly.”

This evolution saw him find immediate success with his ability to take the battle to hitters and assert dominance. There was an expected struggle with command as Snelten hadn't seen live action through the three seasons prior (42 BBs/48K’s in 36 IP 2023), though his strikeout rates showed a very real talent ceiling. His reunion with the independent Chicago Dogs in Indyball following his half season with the Yankees would see results fall closer in line with preparation (3.33 ERA 40Ks 24.1 IP). Some may find concern with his 2023 walk rates, but considering the fact that Snelten managed all of this self-improvement on his own terms without Major League assistance since 2018 speaks volumes to the grit, determination, growth, intellect, and many other positive qualities indicative of a true Major Leaguer. The stage has been set for Snelten to hit the ground running with the Angels organization in 2024 as this will be the first time Snelten has pitched back to back seasons since 2018-2019, offering a real sense of confidence in Snelten's ability to pitch his way up the thin organizational depth chart. 

“Going into 2020 I felt kind of stuck. I reached out to my friend Nick who ended up becoming my business partner for a while before he took a division one job over at the University of Pacific in Stockton. I knew there was more in the tank [for myself], I just didn't know how to do it. He was completely candid with me, told me I was terrible with using my lower half and if I figured that out that there's no doubt I would be throwing 98 to 100. We put the gun away for a few months and just started focusing on looking like a pitcher.”

Snelten’s journey of self-improvement took on a new meaning in 2020 after founding the Ground Up Development baseball program, through which he aims to assist young pitchers in their own search for an edge on the game. It is often seen in life that we can learn more about ourselves by imparting our knowledge unto others, and like so for Snelten his truest understandings of himself as a pitcher would come to blossom as a teacher. A completely revitalized perspective on the physical analytics and body science behind professional pitching proved monumental in transforming Snelten from a pitcher on his way out of the game into a competitor fully capable of breaking the walls between himself and the highest level of competition. There shouldn't be too much blocking Snelten's path to the Major Leagues considering the lack of organizational depth, and the fact that can touch 102 mph already makes him one of the more talented pitchers at the top end of the system. Of course this all hinges on Snelten reigning in his control, but once he manage this last developmental hurdle he will likely end up one of the first called upon once eventual injury rears it's ugly head at the Major League level. You often hear Angels manager Ron Washington speak on the importance of being a giver and how giving back to the game teaches you what the game needs from you. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Snelten's transformation as a pitcher came as grew to learn what he needed to give to get back what he wanted. Who knows, maybe D.J Snelten and Ron Washington will be a match made in heaven come 2024. Where there is belief there is also a 100 mph fastball ready to enforce the will to have made it this far, and the desire to finish the job.   

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51 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

Fascinating story, basically like a lottery ticket

Converting from off speed to hitting 100+ mph with mid 80s off speed

The control is the main issue to work on. 


37 minutes ago, Tank said:

cool stuff. we could use a success story like this on the team. i hope he makes it.

I feel like the baseball gods owe us a few of these types of success stories this upcoming season and for our key regulars to stay healthy. 

We're due. 

Great article @ryanmfalla!!

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3 hours ago, Rollinghard said:

I assume he will be at ST. Something to look forward to. Funny how a friend that took on a small d1 coaching job was able to pinpoint his problem and fix him. Makes you wonder about who should be a coach. Old veterans that need a job or these guys that study how the body works and use a lot of video. 

Good point, Rollinghard. 

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On 1/3/2024 at 8:30 PM, Chuck said:


I feel like the baseball gods owe us a few of these types of success stories this upcoming season and for our key regulars to stay healthy. 

We're due. 

Great article @ryanmfalla!!

Seems like 2024 could potentially be one of those seasons.

Halos are due a few of those seasons.

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