One of the more obscure rookies on 2016 Opening Day rosters is San Diego Padres outfielder Jabari Blash. Let's take a look.
Originally drafted in the eighth round in 2010 by the Mariners, from Miami Dade Junior College, Blash moved through the Seattle system slowly but did enough to catch the eyes of scouts with his power. The Mariners left him exposed to Rule 5 last winter; he was selected by the Athletics, then traded to the Padres, and now here he is with a big league job.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Jabari Blash, OF, San Diego Padres
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 195 DOB: July 4, 1989
2011: Grade C; 2012: Grade C; 2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C
Jabari Blash blashed 32 homers in the high minors last year but the Mariners did not put him on the 40-man roster. He was selected by Oakland in the Rule 5 draft, then was traded to the Padres. His power is entirely legitimate and he’s made progress improving his strike zone judgment. Whiffs will always be an issue but he makes an effort to work counts and will take his walks. Blash runs pretty well and has a good arm but is still somewhat raw as a fielder, though certainly playable at either corner. Grade C+.
Blash hit just .189 this spring in 53 at-bats but showed power (four homers, .434 SLG) and some measure of patience (eight walks, .317 OBP). He also struck out 23 times.
The spring stats may be a small sample size but they are exactly in line with Blash's scouting reports and his minor league history. He has very impressive power and is willing to work a count, but he takes a big hack, swings and misses a lot, and is not going to hit for much of an average at the big league level. Although not much of a stolen base threat, he is a good athlete with solid-average running speed and an above-average arm. While he is a bit error-prone, his tools work very well in right field.
He was under the Mendoza Line this spring and will have to stay above it to hold a big league job but that's possible according to the sabermetric projection systems. Steamer has him at .216/.289/.397, wRC+ 92, but ZiPS is more optimistic at .231/.308/.439, wRC+ 109. Baseball Prospectus is also on the optimistic side, projecting above-average production at .230/.322/.466.
Overall, Blash's power makes him a fun player to watch. He'll have to work on the contact and plate management skills to keep his average and OBP above water, but power of his caliber is rare and always in need.