In 2011, Snell was home-schooled until pitching for Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Washington. "I was only home-schooled for my junior year. I ended up getting home-schooled because I wasn't taking school as serious as my mom would have liked me to do," Blake said. "She told me she would do that, but I didn't think she would be serious. She told me, 'We're going to give you a year of home school with your brother, and if you do that and you're ready to go back, I'll let you go back.'
"Me and him, we didn't really screw around too much, he wanted to go back. It was a lesson to be learned."
Blake's father, Dave Snell, pitched six minor league seasons, reaching Double-A, and schooled Snell and his three brothers (including twin Tyler, who played in junior college) in the game.
“He humbles me pretty quick,” Snell says of Tyler. “So I could throw a no-hitter, and he would say, ‘It’s because you didn’t face me—I’d take you deep.’ ”
Snell spends off-seasons back home in Washington state, collecting Jordan brand shoes—he’s got around 200 pairs—and cheering for the Seahawks. He’s passionate about his hometown Washington Huskies and his dog Junior, a chocolate lab.
“No tobacco, no booze, no girlfriend. His best friend is his dog,” Bosman jokes. “He’s just totally determined to get to the big leagues. He’s just zeroed in on where he wants to go.”
In 2011, Blake got drafted by the Rays (see Transactions below).
In 2012, he would have led the Appalachian League with a 2.09 ERA if he hadn't fallen seven innings short of qualifying because Tampa Bay shut him down with fatigue in mid-August.
In 2012, Baseball America rated Snell as the 20th-best prospect in the Rays' organization. They moved Blake all the way up to #7 in the winter before 2013 spring training. He was at #14 in the spring of 2014.
He was rated 9th-best prospect in the Rays' farm system in the offseason before 2015 spring camps opened. But in 2016, they moved him up to the #1 rated prospect in Tampa's organization.
Blake needs to add strength to his lanky frame so that he can handle the wear and tear of a full season of pro ball. (December 2013)
August 2, 2014: Snell threw a rain-shortened, 5 1/3-inning no-hitter for high Class A Charlotte in a 10-0 win against Daytona on Aug. 2, logging nine strikeouts.
In 2014, Snell was named the Rays' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
In 2014, Snell improved the mental side of his game and that made a huge difference. "I think it was me growing up, doing a little more maturing, understanding this is something I want to do and this is something I need to take seriously,” Snell said.
One sign of the change was being more open to coaching, first with Bill Moloney when Snell was sent back to low Class A Bowling Green to open the season, then with Steve Watson after his promotion to high Class A Charlotte.
“I’ve always had overpowering stuff; I didn’t know how to use it,” Snell said. “So now I’m learning from my coaches and focusing on what I should be doing, and that’s how I had the year I had.”
Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said, "(Blake) is a classic example of a kid needing to grow up.
“He’s really matured,” Lukevics said. “These young high school kids, sometimes they are not as mature as what you’d like. And I think he will tell you over the course of his young journey he’s matured. Not only has he matured mentally, but he’s matured physically as well. And with that evolution, and that maturation, his stuff is pretty exciting.” (Marc Topkin - 11/07/2014 - Baseball America)
In 2015, Blake was chosen by the Rays to represent them in the All-Star Future Game playing for the U.S. team.
In 2015, Snell was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. Blake had one of the best seasons in years: He finished 15-4, 1.41 ERA overall, which included 163 strikeouts in 134 innings. His 1.41 ERA, which led all minor league qualifiers, is the lowest for a full-season pitcher since Justin Verlander’s 1.29 ERA in 2005. And Blake ranked among the leaders in wins (tied for fourth), strikeouts (also tied for fourth), WHIP (ninth, 1.02) and opponents' average (first, .182).
Blake began 2015 with the Stone Crabs before 21 scoreless innings earned him a promotion to Double-A Montgomery. There, Snell continued to run up zeroes until his streak stopped at 49 scoreless innings. A late-July promotion to Triple-A Durham followed, and Snell led all minor league starters with a 1.41 ERA, ranked second with a .182 opponent average and fourth with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Blake came into the 2016 season in great shape and having been on a diet all off-season. "I would say during the season it's pretty much impossible to find good food," Snell said about life in the minors. "When the season ended is when I started my diet. When I came in this spring, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. It helped me a lot. We'll see how this season goes and how it's going to help, but I think it will help me a whole lot."
Asked about his Twitter and Instagram name, which is "Snell-zilla," Snell explained: "It was my brother's nickname when he was young and I took it from him. I just kinda took it from him and everyone started calling me it. They're like, 'It fits better.' It took off from there, it was my social media account name. Now everyone calls me it.
You just stole it from your own brother?
"My oldest brother. He had it, I was like, 'That's mine, I like it more.' I was 11 years old. I took it from him and people started calling me it. It kept getting bigger and bigger, and it faded away from him."
Blake's favorite baseball movie is "Bull Durham."
Pitcher he modeled himself after? "I always liked Randy Johnson because I was a Mariners fan. And Jamie Moyer, I was amazed at how he was so successful as a pitcher. He was spot-on with that big curveball. He was exciting to watch, to be honest," Snell said.
Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell used doubt to fuel his award-winning performance.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner felt he needed to prove something last season after being sent down to the minors in 2017.
"I heard a lot of people saying I won't, or I can't," Snell told Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY . "It kind of pissed me off. And I said, 'I will. I don't care what you say. Just watch.'
"I made it happen and that's all that matters to me."
Snell, 26, believes his "mentality is really everything" on the mound.
"So when I pitch, it's violently personal. You're just not going to beat me, is the way I have to look at it," the Seattle native said. "Sometimes you lose, but it's all about understanding how I'm going to get that guy out this time as well as next time." (Tom Ruminski - theScore - Feb. 27, 2019)
- June 2011: Blake signed with the Rays after they made him a supplemental first round pick (52nd choice overall), out of Shorewood High School in Shoreline, WA. He got a $684,000 bonus, via scout Paul Kirsch. He passed up a baseball scholarship to the University of Washington.
- March 20, 2019: Blake Snell and the Rays agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension. The deal extends through the 2023 season. And Snell could make an additional $2 million in incentives.
|Birth City:||Seattle, WA|
|Draft:||Rays #1 (suppl.) - 2011 - Out of high school (WA)|
Snell, a lefty, has an 91-97 mph 4-seam late-moving FASTBALL that rates a 70 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has an 85-88 mph SLIDER with sharp horizontal break down and away from lefthanders and gets an average 50 grade, plus an above-average 78-81 mph CURVEBALL that grades 60 and is his primary breaking pitch, and an above-average (a 55 grade) 85-89 mph CHANGEUP. that has good fade and depth and misses bats. He added a CUTTER in 2015 to better attack righthanded hitters.
Blake has elite arm speed. The loose wrist and ability to spin a breaking ball from high school have translated into the swing-and-miss breaking balls that Snell throws now. Consistency with both remains a final piece for Snell to polish, as well as quickening his times to the plate and improving his command. He gets a 45 grade for his control. (Spring, 2016)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 57.2% of the time; Sinker .1% of the time; Change 17.8%; Slider 12.2% of the time; and Curve 12.8% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 55.1% of the time; Change 21.1% of the time; Slider 13.5% of the time; and Curve 10.3% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 51.5% of the time; Change 19.2%; Slider 9.1%; and his Curve 20.2% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 96.5 mph, Change 88.2, Slider 88.7, and Curve 81.9 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 48.9% of the time; Change 20.4%; Slider 6.7%; and his Curve 24.1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 95.9 mph, Change 86.8, Slider 87.7, and Curve 81.4 mph.
Snell operates in the present. He's very focused and strong-willed. He is driven. Those are traits that can't really be taught.
- He gets a lot of ground balls, pitching low in the strike zone. His command is now an average 50 grade, having improved in 2015.
Blake pitches well under pressure.
With his narrow shoulders, the tall, thin Snell may not gain any more velocity.
Snell runs up high pitch counts because, like many young pitchers, he tries to strike out as many batters as possible. He struggles on occasion to repeat his mechanics with his stiff front leg. (Spring, 2015)
Blake began to repeat his delivery more consistently, when he moved to the third base side of the rubber in 2014. And he has developed a more advanced feel for pitching.
"When I pitch, I kind of feel bad for the hitters in a way because I kind of know the stuff I have,” he said. “I’m really happy with this year in terms of learning. The numbers are cool but it’s just the fact of how much I learned and how much better I got that really made me happy."
Blake developed a better understanding of how to set up hitters in 2015. And he also improved his focus—which is very important. He has the ability to bust righthanded hitters inside with his fastball and put them away with an impressive changeup that faded away from them.
Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and longtime Rays roving pitching coordinator Dick Bosman had broached the subject with Snell, both before the season and in 2013.
“The battles we had with this guy on his mechanics, well, he was a stubborn kid,” Bosman says. “We knew the better way to teach it was to see him pitch and fail and teach him from that . . . There was plenty of stuff Blake Snell didn’t want to do early on, but let him get his ass handed to him a few times, pretty soon you’ve got a damn receptive audience. "He pitches inside well to righthanded hitters. It takes courage to pitch inside, and he’s got plenty of that good courage.”
Snell’s breaking ball has evolved in the last two years as well, beginning in instructional league after the 2013 season. “I learned the curveball from Dick Bosman,” he says, as he shifted the grip on the pitch, creating spin more with his middle finger rather than his index finger. “I should know my fingers. I’m a pitcher.”
He said playing catch with teammate Austin Pruitt helped him hone the grip and release of the pitch, working on getting four-seam spin on the curve, similar to his fastball.
“The power finger is the middle finger,” says Kyle Snyder, who saw the change firsthand as Triple-A Durham’s pitching coach working with Snell over his final eight starts of 2015. “The other thing we have stressed is the commitment, the conviction, and there’s a lot to be said for that. With conviction comes an element of deception. If he’s selling all four pitches, fastball/curveball/slider/changeup, from the same slot, it gives you some room for error.” (John Manuel - Baseball America - 9/25/2015)
In 2014, Snell finished second in the Rays' organization in ERA and third in strikeouts.
When Blake ended the 2014 season with three scoreless innings, he didn't really think much of it. It wasn't a big deal, beyond its being a great way to kick off the 2015 campaign, when the Rays left-handed pitching prospect tossed six shutout frames in his first start.
But it didn't take long for people to take notice, especially after Snell finished April without allowing a run, a stretch spanning 21 innings. Four starts into May and he still had a 0.00 ERA. That ran the streak to 46 consecutive scoreless innings in 2015, 49 in total when those three to end 2014 were added in. "A lot is clearly going your way when you throw 46 shutout innings," Snell said. "It was a fun year. It was fun to be a part of it and enjoy it while it was going. I was really pleased with it. I just have to keep it going, that's the hard part." (Mayo - mlb.com - 9/11/2015)
2015 Season: Pitching across three levels, Snell topped the Minor Leagues with his 1.41 combined ERA and .182 batting average against. His 163 strikeouts were tied for fourth most, second among left-handers. Snell didn't load up at the lower levels, either. After his scoreless 21 innings in the Florida State League, he moved up to Double-A, supposedly the toughest leap to make. He posted a 1.57 ERA and .191 BAA in 12 starts there before moving to Triple-A. The International League posed no greater a problem as Snell finished with a 1.83 ERA and .187 BAA in nine starts at that level. Over the course of his 25 games (23 starts) in 2015, Snell allowed more than two earned runs exactly one time.
"Blake had a remarkable season, and he very much deserves all of the honors he's receiving," Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom said. "He's made so much progress since entering our system, and especially in 2015. It's a credit to all of our staff who have worked with him, and most of all a credit to Blake. His aptitude and desire have gotten him to this point, and we're very excited about his future."
In Triple-A, Snell credits his teammates on the Durham Bulls pitching staff and Kyle Snyder for helping him learn to really study hitters and their tendencies for the first time consistently. That's a skill that should help him when he makes the final step to Tampa Bay.
"I'll be ready to go [in the 2016 season]," Snell said. "I'm already home. I'm happy to sit down and reflect on the year I had, how far I've come as a player and as a person off the field. But I have to start planning for next season. I'm really excited about it." (Mayo - mlb.com - 9/11/2015)
September 15, 2015: The Rays named left-hander Blake Snell the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season.
- April 23, 2016 - Big League Debut: Snell put on a show to start his Show career, working five solid innings, allowing one run, two singles and a walk while striking out six. He showed a fastball that regularly hit 95 mph and a loopy curve that appeared to break about four feet.
“You can see why there is so much buzz about him,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. “I thought he had a really live arm. He’s got a good breaking ball. I’m sure he’s got a really bright future. I’m not looking forward to having to continue to face him, a guy in our division with an arm like that.”
Snell’s bosses were impressed with how he did it, lauding his composure and poise as well as his attention to detail, such as holding runners close. Beyond that, big league manager Kevin Cash said, was his impressive approach.
“He showed zero fear whatsoever,” Cash said. “He was just not concerned about shying away from contact. I thought he threw every pitch with strike intent, to get a swing.
“And I don’t know if you see a ton of young pitchers who take that approach. A lot of guys who come up (think), ‘Let me see if I can paint this edge right here.’ And they’re probably not capable of doing it, but they try it. I don't think Blake even thought about that. He was like: ‘Here it is. Hit it. My stuff’s really good.’ ” (Marc Topkin - 4/23/2016)
June 3, 2018 : Snell struck out the first seven Mariners he faced before Denard Span, traded to Seattle from Tampa Bay on May 25, worked a 10-pitch at-bat and grounded out to second baseman Joey Wendle to end the streak.
The left-hander tied Joe Cowley and Carlos Rodon, both of the White Sox, for the AL record for most strikeouts to open a start and finished one short of the MLB record. Snell also bested the Tampa Bay record of six.
2018 Improvements : Blake Snell is an All-Star this season. I can't believe the difference in his pitching between this time a year ago and this year. What is the big difference?
I'm not sure if Snell's performance should come as such a big surprise, given his strong track record coming up through the system and his strong finish to the 2017 season, but it has been fun to watch. Last season, in his final 10 starts after being recalled from Triple-A Durham on Aug. 8, he went 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He did not allow an earned run in four of those 10 starts.
A lot of that success was attributed to an adjustment in which he moved from the third-base side of the rubber to the middle of the rubber. Apparently, that lined him up better to throw strikes. Seems like that strong finish added confidence.
Sept 7, 2018: Rickard's home run off Snell brought to a close a significant streak by the southpaw. Snell had allowed one earned run or fewer in 14 consecutive home starts dating back to Sept. 12, 2017, against the Yankees, which was the longest such streak in the Major Leagues since 1913, when earned runs were officially kept in both leagues.
September 23, 2018: Snell's 21st win broke David Price's team-record of 20 wins set in 2012.
In 2018, Snell was named AL Pitcher of the Month for September. He went 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA across 35 2/3 innings while holding batters to a .171 clip to help the Rays finish with a 90-72 record. Snell also tied the Indians' Carlos Carrasco for the MLB high with 53 strikeouts.
Less than a year removed from a Minor League demotion, Snell set the Rays' franchise record with 21 wins, and he notched nine of those in a row without a loss (with a no-decision in between) that also marked a franchise record. At the ripe age of 25, Snell joined Dwight Gooden (1985), Vida Blue (1971), Denny McLain (1968), Dave McNally (1968), Dean Chance (1964) and Hal Newhouser (1945) as the only pitchers that young to record at least 20 wins and an ERA below 2.00.
Nov. 13, 2018: Snell was named the winner of the 2018 Warren Spahn Award. Named after the Hall of Famer Spahn, the all-time winningest left-hander, the award has been given annually to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball since 1998.
In 2018, Snell of the Rays took the A.L. Cy Young Award, putting up the next-lowest E.R.A. in the majors after deGrom, at 1.89. Snell’s record, however, was much better: 21-5. Only he and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians, a fellow Cy Young finalist, won at least 20 games this season.
2018: Snell's curveball was voted one of the nastiest pitches in baseball by MLB players.
Snell's breakout Cy Young Award-winning season in 2018 was a beautiful thing to behold. And his old-school, yo-yo curveball that sits around 80 mph is his go-to put away pitch. Of the 145 plate appearances against Snell that ended with the curve, 93 were strikeouts. More than half of the swings on all curves thrown by Snell were swings and misses.
"I think it's just mainly because of how hard he throws his fastball," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "It comes out of the same slot, he's got that angle and that kind of upshot heater, and that breaking ball kind of starts out as something you need to hit. Then, before you know it, he threw it 55 feet." (Anthony Castrovince-MLB.com-Jan. 7, 2019)
Sept 17, 2019: On his first pitch in a Major League game since late July, Snell delivered a 95 mph fastball for a strike against David Freese. He proceeded to strike out Freese, setting the tone for an impressive return to the mound. Snell retired all six batters he faced, throwing 26 pitches, 17 for strikes. He threw 21 four-seam fastballs, recording six swing-and-misses with the pitch.
“Couldn’t have asked for much more from him,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “You always wonder with not getting a large amount of reps how the command's going to be. The power was tremendous, and the fastball command was great. Very encouraged by his performance.”
The plan was to get Snell through two or three innings. When Snell was due up to bat in the third, he was pinch-hit for by Mike Brosseau. Because Snell was at only 26 pitches, he went to the Rays' bullpen and threw 10 more pitches to simulate a third inning.
- As of the start of the 2020 season, Blake had a career record of 38-28 with a 3.24 ERA, having allowed 414 hits and 50 home runs while striking out 585 in 506 innings.
- Blake is slow to the plate. But he does other things to keep the stolen base rate not too bad when he's on the mound.
August 2012: The Rays shut Snell down with arm and shoulder fatigue.
July 20-Aug 4, 2018: Snell was on the DL with left shoulder fatigue.
April 16-24, 2019: Snell was placed on the 10-day injured list with a fractured right fourth toe. He broke it while taking a shower.
July 25-Sept 17, 2019: Blake was on the IL with loose bodies in left elbow.
July 29, 2019: Blake underwent arthroscopic surgery in St. Petersburg to remove loose bodies in his left elbow. Dr. Koco Eaton performed the surgery. The club still anticipates that Snell will be ready to join the team at some point in September 2019.