Prospect Retro: Casey Blake
Prospect Retro: Casey Blake
Casey Blake was drafted by the Blue Jays in the seventh round in 1996, out of Wichita State University. He was considered to be a fine athlete with good defensive skills at third base, but a questionable bat: scouts were worried that he couldn't hit with wood. A college senior, he was sent directly to the South Atlantic League after signing, hitting .250/.318/.372 in his 48-game pro debut. This was hardly strong performance, but he skipped the short-season level entirely and considering that he did OK. Strike zone judgment was a problem: he drew just 11 walks against 40 strikeouts in 172 at-bats. He would rate as a Grade C prospect at that point, pending more pro data. I was very aware of him, since he went to high school in Iowa and since I saw him play a lot in college.
The Jays moved him to Dunedin in the Florida State League in 1997. He hit .238/.319/.332 in 449 at-bats, stealing 19 bases but not showing much power and with just okay plate discipline. His defense was also erratic. I put him in the 1998 book, but as a Grade C- prospect.
Blake returned to Dunedin in 1998 and was a totally different player, hitting .350/.409/.547 in 88 games. He kept this up after moving to Double-A, where he hit .372/.442/.628 in 45 games. Scouts attributed this offensive outburst to a revamped batting stance, as well as greater confidence: Blake had a reputation for putting too much pressure on himself, and needed to relax more. Despite the gaudy numbers, I was still concerned about his past track record and moved his rating up to just a Grade C+ in the 1999 book.
Blake spent most of 1999 in Triple-A, hitting .245/.357/.468 with 22 homers, 61 walks, and 82 strikeouts in 387 at-bats. He got into 14 games with the Blue Jays, hitting .256/.293/.385. He maintained the power he showed in '98, and also boosted his walk rate, taking some of the sting out of the decline in batting average. He also improved his fielding at third base. By the end of the season, he was already 26 years old however. I gave him a Grade C due to the age issue, but noted that he would "be a decent player if someone gives him a chance."
Traded to Minnesota early in 2000, Blake hit .317/.406/.529 in the Pacific Coast League, but went 2-for-16 in a brief trial with the Twins. Now 27, he looked like a role player to me and I gave him another Grade C. He spent 2001 and 2002 in the Pacific Coast League again, hitting .309/.376/.485 in '01 and .309/.383/.492 in '02, seeing brief action with the Twins and Orioles in that stretch, but not getting a real chance to play.
Blake finally got that chance in 2003 at the age of 29-30, hitting .257/.312/.411 for the Indians. Not great, but it kept him employed. He improved his strike zone judgment in 2004 and broke out with 28 homers, and has been a steady productive player ever since.
In his minor league career, he was a .292/.371/.469 hitter; in the majors he's been a .264/.334/.447 hitter.
As a prospect, Blake was something of a late bloomer. He was rated as a fine athlete when young, but took time to figure out the offensive side of the game.