As a minor league hitter, Travis Snider showed a penchant for power hitting. He won the Class AA Eastern League home run derby in 2008. He smacked 23 home runs that season, between stops in Classes A, AA and AAA and added two more that season as a September call-up with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2009, his tear continued. He belted 14 homers in 48 games for Class AAA Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, a hitter's league, before earning another call-up to the majors.
But somewhere along the way, Snider's power dried up. It coincided with all-around struggles in the major leagues he just now seems to be shaking off.
"We seem to be the only ones here not concerned about the power," manager Clint Hurdle said. "A lot of people externally like to punch holes in things. We wanted to focus again on him being a good hitter because I think that's one of the things that escaped him a little bit. He had always been a good hitter, then the power came into play."
Snider might have been influenced by what Hurdle called a Blue Jays lineup with "free-swinging guys with big, strong grip-it-and-rip-it guys."
In 50 games with the Pirates last season, Snider hit one home run. His power numbers haven't changed much this year, in which he has two home runs and one long double -- later reviewed by umpires -- that some in the organization insist should have been another home run.
Scouts were concerned Snider's swing had developed in a way that eliminated a lot of his power potential -- specifically, he rolled his hands over as he finished the swing. That adds more topspin to the ball, which often keeps it from traveling as far as possible.
Hurdle said when the Pirates acquired Snider near the 2012 trade deadline, they focused on rebuilding his swing.
"The basic stroke and the strengths of the stroke had kind of disconnected," he said.
Once the Pirates got his swing back, the power would follow. The key was to make Snider a good hitter with power, not a power hitter.
Hurdle said Snider is growing into the adjustments.
"I think he's found his rhythm and his rhyme and reconnected with his hands," Hurdle said.
As for Snider, who has hit his two home runs in the past two weeks, he does not think too much about whether he is living up to his projected skill set as a power hitter.