Blue Jays rookie sensation Davis Schneider's patience should keep him rolling

The newest Blue Jays folk hero has grabbed fans' attention by hitting home runs, but his patience could give him staying power.

Davis Schneider has exceeded all reasonable expectations since he debuted for the Toronto Blue Jays last month.

The 24-year-old has been the team's best power hitter by a significant margin since his promotion on Aug. 4, slugging .808 for a squad that has lacked thump in 2023. His 2.1 fWAR ranks fourth among the team's position players despite the fact he's taken fewer than 100 at-bats. The 251 wRC+ he's produced since his first MLB game tops the majors among hitters with at least 90 plate appearances over that time.

All of that that is extremely impressive, but the central question surrounding Schneider is what his production will look like over a large sample. He simply can't keep chugging along at his current pace unless he's literally the greatest hitter of all time.

That seems unlikely based on the fact he doesn't hit the ball particularly hard (108.8 max exit velocity) and he was never a prospect of note prior to 2023. Even though he was excellent at Triple-A this season (141 wRC+), he wasn't nearly as good as he's been in the majors.

Blue Jays rookie Davis Schneider has shown a terrific eye at the plate. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Blue Jays rookie Davis Schneider has shown a terrific eye at the plate. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It's tough to gauge where his production will net out when his current heater simmers down, but one of the biggest reasons for optimism has nothing to do with his power. Instead, his ability to keep the bat on his shoulders seems likely to give his production a solid floor.

Over Schneider's last 10 games he only has one home run and one game with multiple hits, but his wRC+ still sits at 215 largely due to the fact he's taken 12 walks.

Since joining the Blue Jays, his out-of-zone swing rate (15.2%) is the lowest among 472 hitters who've taken at least 75 trips to the dish, and his walk rate (20.2%) is the highest. He's drawn 19 bases on balls in 23 contests.

To give that a little perspective, if he walked at that rate over a 162-game season, he'd set the Blue Jays' franchise record with 133 free passes — just ahead of Jose Bautista's legendary 2011 season (132).

Although some of those numbers are driven by his small body of work, walks are tough to fake. FanGraphs estimates that a walk rate tends to stabilize around 120 plate appearances, and Schneider is nearly there. He also produced a BB% of 18.4 in 392 Triple-A plate appearances in 2023. His career walk rate in the minors is 15.1%.

While it's easier to take walks in the minors than the bigs, he still clearly projects to get his share at this level. FanGraphs' most optimistic projection system — Steamer — pegs him at 13.4% for the rest of the season.

There are only 12 qualified hitters who have walked that much in 2023. Every single one of them has a wRC+ above 110, and as a group they've hit .255/.374/.498. If we drop to the ZiPs projection (11.2%) there are still only 26 players in that cohort, and just one — Trent Grisham — has been below average by wRC+.

You could argue based on Schneider's work in Triple-A and the majors that those projections are on the stingy side, but even if they're accurate they put him in exceptional company. It is difficult to be a poor hitter when you are finding your way on base via the walk so often.

The Blue Jays have an internal counterexample in Cavan Biggio as the utility man's walk rate has topped 11% in each of his five MLB seasons and his total production has been below average in three of them.

While there's a chance Schneider's production ends up looking a bit like his teammate's at some point, he's already shown a more impressive power ceiling than Biggio, who has never slugged better than .671 in a 23-game span — matching the length of the rookie's hot start.

Pitchers may choose to attack Schneider in the zone more as the season, and his career, continues, but he's shown the ability to make them pay when their offerings leak into the heart of the plate and lay off when they slip out of the zone.

It's still too early to know precisely what Schneider will be as a hitter at the game's highest level, especially because his power production outstrips his raw power. Even so, his ability to work counts and walks gives him an avenue to make consistent contributions whether the ball is flying over the wall or not.

Schneider's long-term ceiling is difficult to pin down while he's hitting at a superhuman level, but his floor is looking more and more stable thanks to his stellar approach.