Of the 338 Triple-A hitters who have recorded at least 200 plate appearances this season, only two have an isolated-power (ISO) mark north of .300. The first is Richie Shaffer, an interesting Rays prospect who spent some time in the big leagues this season. The second is a player by the name of Jabari Blash. No, that’s not a character from Harry Potter, or even an Edith Wharton novel. Jabari Blash is a real, live outfielder in the Mariners organization.
Blash has hit a ridiculous .246/.370/.624 in 50 games at the Triple-A level this year. Prior to that, he slashed a similarly ridiculous .278/.383/.517 in 60 Double-A contests. But it’s his very recent performance that really stands out. Since August 6th, the 6-foot-5 slugger has put together a .292/.395/.785 performance on the strength of his 10 home runs. Those are essentially peak Mark McGwire numbers.
Blash’s stats are great. His downside, however, is that he just turned 26. Players who are 26 don’t normally come up in prospect discussions. Most 26-year-old baseball players are either big leaguers or minor leaguers who aren’t worth thinking twice about. Blash, however, might be worthy of a second thought.
I first became aware of Blash a couple of months ago, when his name turned up in my search for the next Paul Goldschmidt. Blash’s performance at Double-A this year was very similar to Goldschmidt’s the year he made his debut. Both were relatively old for the Double-A level, hit for a ton of power, and went down on strikes in over 20% of their trips to the plate.
It goes without saying that Paul Goldschmidt is some mighty fine company. However, although their Double-A numbers are similar, comparing Blash to Goldschmidt wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved. For one, comparing any minor leaguer to Goldschmidt is a bit silly since hardly anyone develops the way Goldschmidt did. Furthermore, Blash is two years older than Goldschmidt was when he put together his tremendous Double-A campaign.
Blash may not be the next Paul Goldschmidt, but that’s not to say he can’t be a productive big leaguer. After all, he’s already proven he’s an excellent minor leaguer; and many of the best minor leaguers also find success at the game’s highest level. Let’s dive into the stats to see what his odds look like.
The Mariners took Blash in the eighth round out of Miami-Dade College way back in 2010, and he’s hit for crazy amounts of power ever since. Blash’s rattled off 224 extra base hits as a pro, leading to a .237 ISO. This year, he’s really outdone himself by posting an even better .284 ISO. In addition to his mammoth power, Blash also draws walks (12% walk rate this year) and swipes the occasional base, which helps diversify his offensive skill set.
As is with many powerful minor-league hitters, though, Blash’s power comes with loads of strikeouts. He’s whiffed in 27% of his career trips to the plate, including 26% this year. The power is great, but Blash’s lack of contact is very concerning.
As a result, KATOH isn’t really buying what Blash is selling. My system pegs him for a meager 1.3 WAR through age 28 with a 56% chance of cracking the big leagues over that span. It’s worth noting that Blash is closer to his age-28 season than most prospects, but even so, 1.3 WAR over the next three years isn’t particularly appealing.
The statistical comps echo KATOH’s pessimism. We basically see a few platoon hitters surrounded by a bunch of Quad-A types. Using league-adjusted, regressed stats, along with age, I calculated the Mahalanobis Distance between Blash’s performance in Double-A this year and every season in Double-A since 1990 in which a batter recorded at least 400 plate appearances. Below, you’ll find a list of historical players whose performances were nearest and dearest to Blash’s, ranked from most to least similar.
|Rank||Mah Dist||Player||Career PA||Career WAR|
|4||1.15||Pork Chop Pough||0||0.0|
I also repeated the exercise for Blash’s Triple-A numbers.
|Rank||Mah Dist||Player||Career PA||Career WAR|
Kiley McDaniel had the opportunity to see Blash earlier this season, and ultimately came to the same conclusion. He reported average speed and 55-60 grade power and arm strength, labeling him an “NFL type dude” due to his size and athleticism. But despite his raw physical tools, Blash’s deep load and long arms make him an all-or-nothing hitter, which explains his plentiful strikeouts. Overall, Kiley isn’t fan of Blash’s late-count, low-contact hitting style, noting that hitters with this profile destroy minor-league pitching, but usually don’t fare as well in the majors. This is one of those instances where both the stats and the scouts agree. The major leagues aren’t kind to high-minors sluggers with contact problems who are in their mid-20s.
With an OPS north of .850 in more than 500 minor-league games, it goes without saying that Blash has earned his shot. And given his recent performance, along with the looming roster expansion, that shot will almost certainly come sooner rather than later. More likely than not, Blash will go down as yet another Quad-A slugger who couldn’t make enough contact to have sustainable success in the big leagues. But according to the data, there’s a reasonable chance he turns into a useful platoon bat. I, for one, hope he takes after Mike Carp or Casper Wells and sticks around awhile. If for no other reason, Major League Baseball could use a guy named Jabari Blash.