The Runner Sports

Spring NRI Astros, Pt. 4: RHP Cy Sneed: Uptown Down-Home Good Ol’ Boy

Clamoring for an invitation to every Spring Training is a gaggle of ready-for-prime-time Double-A and Triple-A prospects (NRIs, or non-roster invitees), and the Houston Astros have informed 15 of their top minor leaguers they can pack their bags for West Palm Beach for the opening of camp, February 14 (pitchers and catchers; position players report the 17th).

Houston’s 40-man roster is full. The number of NRIs totals 19: nine pitchers, three catchers, three infielders, and four outfielders (a highlighted name below features a link to a previous TRS prospect profile):

Free Agents: IF Reid Brignac, C Juan Centeno, and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser

Prospect Infielders: J.D. Davis, Jon Singleton

Prospect Outfielders: Derek Fisher, Alejandro Garcia, Jon Kemmer, Ramon Laureano

Prospect Catchers: Tyler Heineman, Garrett Stubbs

Related: Garrett Stubbs: Biggio 2.0?

Prospect Pitchers: Edison Frias, Brian Holmes, Jordan Jankowski, Francis Martes, Tyson Perez, Cy Sneed, Aaron West

NEW: Meet the Astros’ New Spring Training Facility, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

(Eventual) Son of the South

Moose heart and eggs is a typical breakfast for Cy Sneed. The 24-year-old Houston minor leaguer thinks nothing of lunching on a 17-oz T-Bone, or hunting bear in Alaska. He’s the living epitome of the “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could” bumper sticker.

Born in Elko, NV, Sneed and older brother, Zeb (a former pitching prospect in the Royals organization), moved to Twin Falls, ID before Cy entered high school.

Sneed, the younger, is a devout Christian, digs tractor pulls, John Wayne movies, and deer hunting. In fact, his favorite Bible passage is Genesis 27:3, which suggests, “Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me” (NIV). One man’s suggestion is another man’s lifestyle.

Bearded in the offseason, Sneed carries the nickname “The Sheriff,” because of his constant mustache (Fu Manchu and otherwise), Sneed counts country singers Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and David Allen Coe as favorites.

Cy was a three-year letterman at Twin Falls High School in Idaho, and in 2011, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 35th round.

Dallas Days and Ft. Worth Nights

Choosing a college career, instead, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and was selected (after his junior year) in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.

The right-handed Sneed actually graduated from DBU (with a Business Management degree) on December 15, 2016, after taking the qualifying number of classes during the offseason.

Sneed spent two years in the Brew Crew’s lower minors, before coming back to Texas, as the Astros’ part of the Jonathan Villar trade of November 19, 2015.

Some pressure may now be squarely in Sneed’s lap, as Villar is coming into his own as a big league middle infielder (heretofore a shortstop and to a lesser degree, third baseman, Villar is being projected as the Brewers’ second baseman in ’17).

Friends in Low Places

Reflecting his early pro career scouting report, the lanky (6’4″, 185 lbs) Sneed was inconsistent in his DBU tenure, turning in an ERA of 4.84 in his sophomore year (2013, starting all of his 16 games, 83.2 IP, 4-4 record), followed by a 3.55 ERA the next year (16 starts, 104 IP, 8-3).

More to the point, his scouting report’s assertion that “his command isn’t terribly reliable,” Sneed’s college Ks per 9 bounced from 7.5/9 K/9 in his freshman year (’12) to 5.8/9 the next, and finally, 7.1/9 his junior year.

Further, his strikeout to walk ratio yo-yoed, as well, mirroring the above: From a favorable freshman high of a 2.63:1 K/BB ratio, he dipped to 1.69:1 the next season, and bounced back to respectability in his junior year, with a 2.28:1.

Owner of a steady, if not particularly darting 90-92 mph fastball, he can reportedly reach 95, with an “ordinary” addition of a curve and changeup, although (according to his scouting report), “neither is a consistently average pitch.”

Sneed revealed his preferred pitching approach in a summer 2014 interview with Noah Jarosh in Brew Crew Ball.com, just days after being drafted by Milwaukee: “Probably just being able to read hitters. Get scouting reports on those guys. Watch a guy take one at-bat, and by the fourth or fifth at-bat having a full scouting report on how to pitch him. I think that’s my biggest strength because I’m always going to have a plan going in against the guy I’m facing.”

Cowboy Up

Sneed’s first full season in Milwaukee’s system (2015, split between Single-A levels, Full and Advanced), showed a marked improvement, and an impressive ability to grow into new challenges.

Combined over 139.1 innings, Sneed racked up a deceptively poor 6-11 record (the consequence of low run support), with a sparkling 2.58 ERA, starting all but two of his 26 games. Consistency was a hallmark for Sneed in ’15, also, logging a 1.13 WHIP at each Single-A level.

Earning the attention of the Astros’ brass to the point where they felt comfortable pulling the trigger on the Villar deal, Sneed turned in a 7.9 K/9, with a 4.36:1 K/BB ratio in 2015 for those two Single-A levels.

Hook ‘n’ Leader

Finishing 2016 in his first season with Houston’s Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks with a 6-5 record, Sneed wound up in the Texas League top twelve in most major pitching categories: 21 games started (League-ranked 11th), 118 IP (12th), 4.04 ERA (11th), 1.29 WHIP (10th), 112 Ks (7th), and 33 BBs (23rd).

Working hard with Hooks pitching coach Dave Borkowski, Sneed turned in a career high (including college) 8.5 K/9, and a 3.39:1 K/BB ratio, an indication that his control could still use some focusing.

Under This Old Hat

Lacking a spot on the 40-man roster, Sneed would need to wow Astros coaches during Spring Training to land a spot on the team.

His 2017 will likely begin at Houston’s AAA Fresno affiliate.

Similar to Chris Devenski, David Paulino, and Michael Feliz, Sneed has an excellent opportunity to join the Astros, mid-season, as a minor league starter who earns a spot in the Houston bullpen.

Related: Devenski Waits His Turn in the Dragon’s Lair

Video: Watch this little-heard phone interview (with graphics) with Sneed, from late December 2015. Hear how he heard about (and reacted to) his trade to Houston. You’ll also hear who has influenced him and his pitching style, both past and present (19 minutes):

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Seen here, meeting Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock (TX), around the turn of the century.

Brad was born and raised in the shadow of what eventually became Colt Stadium, and then, in '65, the Astrodome.

Brad's a semi-retired entertainer, having been lead singer (and flautist) of high school rock cover band Brimstone (Houston, early '70s).

He currently sings karaoke nightly, and also performs at nursing homes and private parties.

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Brad Kyle