Minor League Prospect Note: Jabari Blash, OF, Seattle Mariners
Seattle Mariners outfield prospect Jabari Blash was one of the more interesting players on the field during my recent scouting trip to Burlington, Iowa. Playing for the Clinton Lumberkings, Blash is hitting .243/.352/.432 with 14 homers, 18 doubles, and 13 steals on the season. A .784 OPS may not seem that great, but it ranks 18th in the pitching-oriented Low-A Midwest League. That's not great, but it is above average.
I saw Blash at both his best and his worst. He went 2-for-4 in the first game, hitting a LONG home run (more on that in a second). In the second game, he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. That's his strength/weakness profile in a microcosm right there.
Originally from the Virgin Islands, Blash was drafted by the Mariners in the eighth round in 2010, from Miami Dade Junior College. A right-handed hitter and thrower, he is listed at 6-5, 225 pounds, born July 4th, 1989. Blash is solidly-built: he had the greatest physical presence of any player on the field not named Addison Russell.
Some reports say his running speed is just average/fringy, but one scout I talked with said he consistently clocked Blash at slightly above average speeds. He has enough arm that the Mariners have played him in right field this year. Defense isn't his specialty, though; it is the bat that will make or break him.
Blash has very impressive raw power. He got hold of a fastball in the first game, launching a no- doubt home run well over the left field fence. The ball made that "crack off the bat" sound and my initial response was "holy shit." The only two players I've seen hit balls that hard recently were Brett Lawrie in Omaha last year and Miguel Sano of Beloit earlier this season.
Apparently the Burlington pitchers noticed this, because Blash didn't see a hittable fastball in his remaining at-bats, seeing a consistent diet of curveballs, sliders, and changeups. He seemed to recognize the curves and lay off them, but the sliders and changeups fooled him badly; he either swung-and-missed, or he let them go by for a called strike.
He seemed to understand what the pitchers were doing, but wasn't able to make adjustments. The scout I spoke with said he'd seen the same thing from Blash all year: he'll kill a fastball, but struggled with other pitches, although the scout noted that Blash makes an effort to work counts and did not regard him as a lost cause yet. He swings and misses a lot, but he at least tries to distinguish balls from strikes, which is something that many young hitters can't or won't do.
Blash has drawn 55 walks this year, but fanned 125 times in 370 at-bats, numbers which match the reports perfectly. At age 23, he's not young for the Midwest League, and he clearly has a lot of work to do. That said, Blash's sort of raw power is rare, and I expect the Mariners will be patient with him for awhile.