Minor Matters: Snyder struggling with Ks

Minor Matters: Snyder struggling with Ks

The Indians want the bulk of Brad Snyder's at-bats in 2006 to come at the Triple-A level.

But before that can happen, Snyder has to work on some discipline troubles he's had at the plate in Double-A Akron.

Through 25 games, Snyder, regarded as one of the top outfield prospects in the Tribe's farm system, has hit just .230 with four home runs and 16 RBIs. He's struck out 38 times, against just nine walks.

"[The problem] centers around strike-zone discipline," Indians farm director John Farrell said. "Clearly, when he chases pitches out of the zone, he's not as productive a hitter as when he does maintain a disciplined approach."

Snyder's problem could be desire -- not a lack of it, but too much of it. It was a problem Snyder struggled with during big-league Spring Training camp, where he appeared to be pressing to make an impression on the team's execs.

"Inevitably, any player wants to perform and produce," Farrell said. "Their desire can cause them to forfeit that discipline and look to handle pitches they're not built to handle."

Just one month into the Minor League season, Snyder still has time to ensure the club's projection of where his at-bats will be this season can come true. First, though, he must take in the feedback he's received from Farrell's crew.

"He needs to get back to seeing the ball and trusting he has a quality two-strike approach," Farrell said. "And he needs to allow himself to perform inside his parameters."

Utilizing utility: Joe Inglett's demotion can really be viewed as a promotion.

The Indians sent the Triple-A utilityman down to Akron for a four- to six-week period so that he can focus on playing shortstop, day in and day out. Inglett's big-league ticket would be his ability to play multiple positions, much in the same way Ryan Freel makes his living with the Reds.

"We see [Inglett] as a super utility type of player," Farrell said. "He's really made strides at second base and center field in Buffalo. But the one unknown was his ability to play shortstop."

Kinston K's: The performance of the Class A Kinston pitching staff has been one of the highlights of the Indians' Minor League system, to date.

The club leads the Carolina League in ERA with a 2.57 mark and in strikeouts with 203.

"That whole pitching staff has done an outstanding job," Farrell said. "[Pitching coach] Steve Lyons has been very consistent with them as far as honing their day-to-day routines."

Left-handers Scott Lewis (0-1, 0.42 ERA) and Chuck Lofgren (4-1, 2.13) have been anchoring the rotation. Lewis has 26 strikeouts and only one walk, while Lofgren has 24 strikeouts and six walks.

"The strikeout totals they've compiled is a function of the style of pitchers they are," Farrell said. "Those two guys have above-average deception that goes along with quality stuff. Hitters have a difficult time squaring their fastballs up."

Injury watch: Michael Aubrey, the Tribe's No. 1 pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, has returned to action with Kinston after being out since last June with a stress fracture in his lower back.

Left-hander Tony Sipp, who opened up a lot of eyes in Spring Training camp, is out for four to six weeks with an oblique muscle strain. He's currently at extended Spring Training for rehab.

Before the injury, Sipp compiled a 2-0 record and 2.14 ERA in four starts for Akron. Though he's being groomed as a reliever, Sipp was in the Akron rotation to take full advantage of bullpen sessions between starts.

"What's been most encouraging is the development of his breaking ball, which is the primary reason we had him in the rotation," Farrell said. "He continues to show us aptitude, evident by his pitch development. We're anxious to get him back on the mound."

The Indians are equally anxious to see Class A Lake County outfielder John Drennen, the 33rd overall pick in last year's draft, back in action. He's out indefinitely with a dislocated joint on his left thumb.

"We were fortunate that it wasn't more severe than it is," Farrell said. "He'll return to his hit program [Thursday] and is already involved in his throwing program."

Phillips watch: Farrell had as much of a read on former prospect Brandon Phillips as anybody in the organization the last few years.

So was the Tribe's farm director surprised at the success of Phillips, who was traded to the Reds for a player to be named later on April 7, in the big leagues with Cincinnati?

"He's hopefully opened up his own eyes with the performance he's had," Farrell said. "Hopefully his experience with us and the challenges he faced and successes he's had contributed to the way he's performing now."

Phillips is batting .329 with three homers and 23 RBIs for the Reds. In seven Minor League seasons, Phillips, who was acquired by the Indians in the July 2002 trade that sent Bartolo Colon to the Expos, hit .274 with 67 homers and 328 RBIs.

He struggled mightily while playing half a season as the Indians' second baseman in 2003, batting .208 with six homers and 33 RBIs.

"You can never project with accuracy what a player's going to be," Farrell said. "But he's performing like the player we acquired as the centerpiece of the Colon trade."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.