Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Getting to Know Hooks RHP Cy Sneed

Hooks Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski wasn't sure what the Astros were getting when they traded SS Jonathan Villar to the Brewers last fall for RHP Cy Sneed. He had seen Sneed in his time with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2015 when Borkowski was coaching the Astros Quad Cities affiliate and he liked the way Sneed competed, went after hitters and pounded the zone. But Borkowski didn't expect to see Sneed's fastball reaching the mid-90's. "I don't know what we thought we were getting, if we expected that, but's it's definitely been a pleasant surprise," said Borkowski.

Cy Sneed - April 2016
Photo Courtesy of Tammy Tucker

Borkowski continued with his praise of Sneed, "I really like his attitude and his demeanor on the mound. He's a competitor. He just wants to pound the zone, pitch to contact, use all his pitches. From a demeanor, mentality standpoint, he's an A+ on my list. And I've been pleasantly surprised with what's come out of his arm." In addition to that low to mid-90's fastball, Borkowski noted that Sneed has a good curveball and "a real, real good split." Sneed's changeup is, according to Borkowski, the one pitch that he needs to focus on. "(Sneed) needs to not worry so much about the movement, but taking velocity off (the changeup). Right now, it's like a BP fastball. If he can get that velo differential, he'll have another plus pitch in his arsenal."

When I spoke with Sneed last month, he elaborated on his pitch arsenal. He throws a fastball that cuts naturally, a 12-6 or 11-5 curveball that he's working on throwing a little harder, and a split that he often uses as an out pitch. "The split can be anywhere from 79 to 87. It's straight down. It will come a little armside at times which is what I want it to do," said Sneed. Of the changeup, Sneed said, "We're trying to get some more movement armside with it. It's pretty straight right now. So that one's kind of a work in progress." He went on to say that his goal is to find consistency day to day with the movement and speed change of the pitch.

When asked to give a scouting report on himself, Sneed responded, "I feel like I pitch in pretty well. I throw to both sides. Righties, especially where I stand on the mound, I can get in on them and lefties, with that ball that cuts, they have trouble with it on their hands. Because of my arm slot, I'm able to pitch up in the zone, but I'm also able to pitch down in the zone so I'm able to expand the zone top to bottom. I don't really pitch off the plate to the sides usually. I try to keep it pretty much corner and in, pretty much the way my stuff works. I can pitch backwards a little bit. I can kind of go normal. I can go up, down. I try to do a little bit of everything to be a little bit unpredictable. Just depends on who's up there, the situation, if I've faced guys before, that kind of thing. I just try to be random a little bit."

Having played with Hooks teammate OF Ronnie Mitchell for two years in his time at Dallas Baptist University, I asked Sneed to give me a scouting report on Ronnie. "He's changed a little bit since college. He's got pretty good power all over the place. He really sprays the ball around. He's not really one of those guys who's one dimensional and hits the ball just to one side. He's a really good outfielder. He's fast, runs the bases well. He's pretty good," replied Sneed.

Of his short time in the Astros system, Sneed told me, "I love it! I think it's great. A lot of their player development stuff is very uniform throughout the organization. I really like that. It's a very fun environment." He particularly likes the emphasis on winning ballgames.

I had pegged Sneed to at least start his first season in the system with High A Lancaster, but he had his sights set on AA Corpus Christi. "It's where I'd really wanted to go. I went into Spring Training as prepared as possible and really trying to do that. (I'm) really happy that I was able to do that and really happy to be here. Obviously, great ballpark, great environment," said Sneed.

Despite having a pretty healthy pitch arsenal himself, when quizzed about what fellow Astros farmhand has a pitch Sneed would like to steal, he didn't hesitate. "[Reymin] Guduan. His fastball that will be 100. That would be a nice one to have in your back pocket, be able to rip that out every now and then. Or you've got Mike Freeman, his slider that just takes off when it's on, is really good. You've got a lot of guys like that (that have had success) throughout the organization. You've got guys with really good stuff. Those are just two guys that are here that have two pitches that are really, really good when they're on."

When I mentioned that fellow Hooks pitcher Brendan McCurry coveted his cutter, Sneed wasn't surprised. "He loves it. He watched me pitch a game in Spring Training and he hasn't stopped talking about it since. For whatever reason, the way I throw, the ball just cuts. And it's kind of interesting. With my arm slot, you wouldn't really expect it. The other day I threw one that moved like a slider but it was a fastball and it was totally out of nowhere. I think it's effective because the hitter doesn't always know if I did it on purpose or not. And I don't know if I did it on purpose half the time. It's working pretty well. He likes that thing."

As to the Hooks hitter Sneed would least like to face, he picked Alex Bregman. "I'm talking to him a little bit on the bench and what he's thinking and what he sees and what he's going to try to do in his next at bat really would fall in line with what I would think, pitching to him. So I think he would be a very difficult at bat."

On a personal note, Sneed mentioned that he is from Idaho and is married (to the beautiful and charming Hannah Sneed who I had the privilege of talking with at length during my trip to Corpus), but was hard pressed to come up with anything terribly unusual about himself aside from his affinity for The Band Perry who he first saw at a local fair in high school before they made it big, and his love of sweets. "There's not a sweet that I'll turn down. I don't discriminate. I'll eat it all! That gets me in trouble a little bit, but my wife keeps me in line."

Being a big outdoorsman from Idaho, Sneed has been hunting and fishing his entire life. With those skills, I nominated him as the Astros player I would most like to have with me were I to be stranded on a desert island. He laughed and conceded that he'd probably be "alright" although he's more at home in the mountains. Who does he think might be a good pick? "There's definitely some sleeper picks in there. I've heard good things about Colby Rasmus. He would definitely be in the running for that. You can't really rule anybody out. You don't know what somebody's got in their back pocket."

In Sneed's first four appearances with the Hooks, he has a 1.15 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP. It is obvious that, aside from his mountain man expertise, Sneed has a few skills in his back pocket as well and they are translating nicely in his first few games in the Astros system.

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Thank you for your time, Cy, and best of luck as the season progresses.

Other recent interviews and profiles:
LHP Reymin Guduan
SS Aleg Bregman
RHP Brendan McCurry

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