Robby Snelling quarterbacking the Storm’s success

Credit: Lake Elsinore Storm

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Credit: Nevada Sports

Robby Snelling is at the forefront of the Lake Elsinore Storm’s success to begin the 2023 season.

For the last several years, the San Diego Padres and general manager A.J. Preller have made a concerted effort to acquire starting pitching. The team has done this through the draft to replenish a farm system that’s been lacking arms after a bevy of trades since 2020. 

The 2022 draft, which took place this past July, was no different. Preller selected 18-year-old Dylan Lesko (Padres #2 prospect, #90 overall) with the 15th pick out of high school. The Padres drafted Lesko, who was the 2021 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, after posting a 0.35 ERA with 112 strikeouts in just 60 innings during his junior year. Despite having Tommy John surgery in April, Lesko has tremendous upside. 

Lesko wasn’t the only notable pitcher drafted by the Padres last summer. Twenty-four picks after Lesko, in Competitive Balance Round A, Preller selected Robby Snelling (Padres #5 prospect) from Robert McQueen High School in Reno, Nevada. 

Despite falling to 39th overall in the draft, Snelling was just as much a star as Lesko in high school. Not only did Snelling set a new state record for strikeouts in a season (146) and strikeouts in a 7-inning game (20), but the lefty was also a standout quarterback and linebacker. 

Rob Bruno, the founder of NorCal baseball, lauded Snelling’s intangibles.

“His drive and work ethic are as good as I’ve seen in 30 plus years. His leadership is also tremendous, other players are following him around. This young man is simply a winner,” Bruno said.

The prospect from Nevada has been spending his summers playing travel ball for NorCal under Bruno since he was in seventh grade. Snelling turned down multiple scholarship opportunities to sign with the Padres, including an offer from the University of Arizona to be a multi-sport athlete. 

It’s a good thing for him and the Padres that he decided to play baseball, as the lefty is off to a roaring start to the 2023 season.

With his victory Friday night, Snelling improved to 3-0 with 26 strikeouts while allowing just two runs (0.86 ERA) and a mere ten hits in 21 innings for the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres Single-A affiliate). 

Storm manager Pete Zamora has been impressed with Snelling, to say the least.

“He comes as advertised. Very professional for a young man. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and keeps improving every day,” Zamora said. 

Lake Elsinore is off to a fast start in 2023 at a 17-7 record, in part because of Snelling.

“He’s a bulldog when he’s on the mound. He’s got that football mentality,” Zamora tells EVT.

Zamora, who is in his third season with the Storm, his first as the Manager, has preached this mentality to his team since day one, and it shows. 

Lake Elsinore ranks first in the California League in both team ERA (2.49) and WHIP (1.13) on the season while committing just 31 errors. The team also ranks third in the league in strikeouts per nine innings (11.1).  “For the most part, we’ve been playing good defense and pitching the hell out of the ball. When you get those two things, you usually do well,” Zamora said. 

Credit: Lake Elsinore Storm

Similar to high school, where he was the star quarterback, Snelling is confident in using the weapons around him to win games. “The success comes not from my strikeouts but the defense behind me. I’ve been able to make hitters put the ball on the ground or pop it up and count on the guys behind me to do their job,” Snelling tells East Village Times.

For Snelling, there’s still an adjustment period, but he embraces the challenge.

“This isn’t high school anymore; each week is a six-game series. You’re playing a team once a week, a different team each week. You’re staying in hotel beds and getting back at different times,” Snelling explains. Aside from much different living arrangements, the prized prospect noted the difference in strike zones as one of the biggest changes in the jump to pro ball.

“It was a lot wider. I had to get used to that. The key for me now is learning how to land all my pitches and put them in spots where it’s a pitcher’s pitch and not just throwing it,” Snelling said. Despite his recent success, Snelling remains patient while working on his craft.

“I want to get up as high as I can, but being it’s my first season, I’m happy where I’m at right now. Not that I want to be complacent with where I’m at; I want to keep striving to pitch even better than I have this early in the season and keep building off of that,” Snelling said. 

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Storming the lake

Lake Elsinore (17-7) is currently tied for first place in the California League with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers Single-A affiliate), who are currently in town as the Storm host them this week, including a doubleheader on Saturday. 

“We have a good collection of young players, veteran college guys who know how to play the game right. They enjoy being around each other,” Zamora said. The winning has been a group effort. “The thing that separates this team is we’re super close and have a great camaraderie that when we do lose, nobody’s really down in the dumps. Obviously, it sucks to lose, but you understand that you have 132 games in a season,” Snelling said.

On the pitching side of things, they’ve received standout performances from guys like Snelling, Henry Baez, Austin Krob, Will Geerdes, Manuel Castro, Dwayne Matos, Ruben Galindo, Isaiah Lowe, and Kobe Robinson, among others. 

Of the 15 guys who have pitched at least six innings, 14 are striking out at least a batter an inning, and 11 of them have an ERA of 3.12 or better. 

Catcher Anthony Vilar (3 HR, 1.147 OPS) and infielder Graham Pauley (2 HR, 1.029 OPS) have led the team offensively. “It’s the chemistry; we’re like a family. We hold each other accountable,” outfielder Samuel Zavala tells EVT. 

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