Blake Ashton Snell (born December 4, 1992) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his MLB debut in 2016 and won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018.
Snell attended Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Washington, where he played for the school's baseball team. He committed to the University of Washington. In high school, he trained at a facility owned by his father who was a former minor league baseball player. In his senior season, Snell recorded an earned run average of 1.00 with 128 strikeouts over 63 innings en route to a 9–0 win-loss record.
Draft and minor league career
The Tampa Bay Rays selected Snell in the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft. He signed with the Rays and made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast Rays, where he was 1–2 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 games (eight starts). He spent 2012 with the Princeton Rays, pitching to a 5–1 record and a 2.09 ERA in 11 starts, and 2013 with the Bowling Green Hot Rods where he compiled a 4–9 record and a 4.27 ERA in 23 starts.
Snell started 2014 back with Bowling Green and was promoted to the Charlotte Stone Crabs in May. On August 2, he pitched a rain-shortened no-hitter against the Daytona Cubs. It was the first no-hitter in Stone Crabs history. In 24 total games started between the two clubs, he was 8–8 with a 3.19 ERA. After the season, he was named the Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Snell started 2015 back with the Stone Crabs and was promoted to the Montgomery Biscuits after he did not allow a run in 21 innings to start the season. He was later promoted to the Durham Bulls. In 25 games (23 starts) between the three clubs, he was 15–4 with a 1.41 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. The Rays added him to their 40-man roster after the season. Snell began the 2016 season with Durham.
Tampa Bay Rays
Snell was promoted to the major leagues to make his debut on April 23, 2016, at Yankee Stadium. Snell's first inning showed jitters, as he allowed a run off of a wild pitch. However he calmed down after that, striking out the side in the second inning, and went onto retire 12 of the last 14 batters he faced. Through the 2016 season for Tampa, Snell made 19 starts, finishing with a 6–8 record, 3.54 ERA, and 98 strikeouts over 89 innings.
At the beginning of the 2017 season, Snell failed to work into the sixth inning in almost all of his first eight games, and was routinely touching 100 pitches in the fourth inning. After posting an ERA of 4.71 through eight starts in 2017, Snell was demoted to Durham on May 13. On June 28, Snell was recalled and his turnaround was evident. After July 23, Snell went 5–1 with a 3.31 ERA to finish off the 2017 season. He finished the season with 24 starts, recording 119 strikeouts over 129 ⁄3 innings with a 4.04 ERA.
2018: Cy Young Award
Snell opened the 2018 season as the number two starter, behind Chris Archer. On June 3, Snell tied an American League record by striking out the first seven batters he faced in a game against his hometown Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Snell would end the game allowing no runs in six innings and recorded 12 strikeouts. This was Snell's first career start at Safeco Field in front of many of his friends and family, an estimated 300, including the first professional start witnessed by his grandfather whom he considers a mentor.
At the time of the All-Star team announcement, Snell was 12–4 with a 2.09 ERA, the lowest of all qualified pitchers in the American League. Despite his success, Snell was not named to the original AL roster. This led to wide-scale criticism of the selection process by players, coaches, fans, and analysts. After Corey Kluber opted out of the All-Star game due to injury, Snell was named his replacement, ending the controversy and awarding him his first career All-Star appearance.
On July 23, Snell was put on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue. He was reactivated on August 4 against the Chicago White Sox. On August 21, Snell set a new MLB record with his 13th straight start allowing one earned run or fewer at home. After allowing two runs at home against the Baltimore Orioles, Snell's streak ended at 14. Snell was recognized as the American League Pitcher of the Month for August, during which he went 4–0 with a 1.08 ERA over five starts.
On September 18, Snell recorded his 20th victory on the season, becoming the first Ray to accomplish this feat since David Price in 2012. On September 23, Snell won his 21st game, setting a franchise record after pitching 6⁄3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays. He was again named the American League Pitcher of the Month for September, in which he went 5–0 with a 1.26 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 35⁄3 innings. Snell became the youngest pitcher to win the award in consecutive months since Johan Santana in 2004.
Snell finished his breakout season leading the majors in wins (21), adjusted ERA+ (219), and batting average against (.178), as well as leading the American League in earned run average (1.89) and wins above replacement among pitchers (7.5). Snell's 1.89 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Pedro Martinez posted a 1.74 mark in 2000, and the third-lowest in the AL since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973. He allowed two or fewer runs in 27 of his 31 starts, and allowed one or zero runs in 21 starts. Against the American League's five playoff teams, he went 9–2 with a 2.00 ERA. He led all major league pitchers in left on base percentage, stranding 88.0% of base runners. For the season, he also had the lowest percentage of balls pulled against him (33.8%) among major league pitchers, and led major league pitchers in lowest contact percentage (66.6%).
On November 14, Snell won the American League Cy Young Award, topping runner-up Justin Verlander by 15 points (169–154), while receiving 17 of 30 first-place votes. Snell became the second Rays pitcher to win the award, after David Price won in 2012.
In spring training, Snell was named the opening day starter for the 2019 season. Snell opened the season to a 5–1 defeat against Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros. However, he quickly bounced back with a dominant seven innings, striking out 13 and only giving up two hits against the Colorado Rockies. On April 16, Snell was placed on the injured list after breaking a toe on his right foot while moving furniture in his bathroom and missed two starts. On July 25, it was announced that Snell would undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. Due to multiple trips to the disabled list, Snell finished with a 6–8 record in 23 starts. He struck out 147 batters in 107 innings.
On October 8, he made his first career appearance as a reliever and closer, and earned the save against Houston Astros working ⁄3 of an inning, which tied the American League Divisional Series at two games apiece.
Snell grew up a Seattle Mariners fan.
Snell is an avid gamer, often streaming himself playing a wide array of videogames in real time on popular streaming platform Twitch.