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Top prospect Snell throws heat in batting practice

Lefty impresses Cash, Rays hitters with 98-mph fastball
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Blake Snell threw batting practice on Sunday, and the left-hander lived up to his billing.

"He just looks like a 12-year-old throwing 98 miles per hour out there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Locating all of his pitches. He's a lot to be excited about."

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Blake Snell threw batting practice on Sunday, and the left-hander lived up to his billing.

"He just looks like a 12-year-old throwing 98 miles per hour out there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Locating all of his pitches. He's a lot to be excited about."

Snell, 23, went 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 25 games (23 starts) in 2015, with stops at Class A Advanced Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. After the season, he was named the Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today and Baseball America. MLBPipeline.com ranks Snell as the Rays' top prospect.

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"The guy got every accolade imaginable for Minor League Baseball last year," Cash said. "And I guess you'd much rather have it going the way it's going than not living up to the hype. Shame on us if we're negatively judging anyone after a week of practice, but he has definitely fit the bill."

Cash noted that watching Snell from behind the batting cage, he sees "very, very good stuff."

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"There's not a pitch he throws that is not a high quality pitch," Cash said. "But you do take into consideration that every hitter walks back and says, 'Man that gets on you quick.' It should be, because it's 95 [mph], but that extra giddy-up element right when it's crossing the strike zone, a lot of guys have commented on."

Rene Rivera was one of the hitters that faced Snell on Sunday.

"He's unreal," Rivera said. "It's early in the year, early in camp. But his fastball, it gets on you really quick. And his changeup is pretty good, too ... it was tough to pick it up. All the guys who were hitting against him will tell you it was pretty good stuff. Good slider, curveball. He's something else."

Snell sounded more like a player who just wanted to get his work in, rather than someone intent on making a strong impression.

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"I feel really good," Snell said. "It's weird, because I'm just kind of building up and I'm focusing on a steady build. So I know my time frame is to be ready for when the season starts. So I'm going really slow, concentrating on certain things."

Among those things is his heater.

"I'm just trying to see the hitters' swings at my fastball," Snell said. "And I'm trying to make it true to a four-seam. Right now, it's cutting a little bit like a two-seam. That's why I'm throwing it so much, because I want to have a true fastball -- then everything else will play off of that."

Snell looks comfortable on the mound.

"I feel really confident," he said. "I don't feel like anything can take that away. It's about confidence in yourself. So I feel as long as I am confident and I'm out here learning, all I have to focus on is getting better and learning, I don't think my confidence will fade."

As for the sentiment of Rays hitters: "Definitely good to know he's pitching for us," Rivera said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays, Blake Snell