On July 1st the Oakland Athletics promoted right-handed pitcher Paul Blackburn to the major league roster. He debuted that day with six strong innings against the Atlanta Braves, then followed up with one run in 7.2 innings against the Seattle Mariners on July 6th. More opportunities will come in the second half, so let’s take a look at what he offers.
Paul Blackburn was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft, out of high school in Brentwood, California. He was committed to Arizona State but the Cubs were able to sign him. He was a solidly effective but not spectacular performer in their system, reaching Double-A in 2016.
Blackburn was traded twice last year, going from the Cubs to the Mariners in the July 20th Mike Montgomery trade, then from Seattle to Oakland on November 12th for Danny Valencia.
Pre-season, I rated Blackburn as a Grade C+ prospect, outside the Oakland Athletics Top 20 prospects for 2017 but in the 21-25 range.
Blackburn compiled a 3.05 ERA in 80 innings for Triple-A Nashville before his promotion this month, with a 56/26 K/BB and 69 hits allowed.
Listed at 6-1, 195, Blackburn was born December 4th, 1993 in Antioch, California. He features a four-pitch arsenal: sinking fastball in the low-90s, slider and change-ups in the 80s, a curve in the upper-70s. The curve was regarded as his best pitch in the minor leagues but the slider and change are less impressive.
He throws strikes and is a ground ball pitcher who has not been overly vulnerable to home runs in the minors, but his whiff rates are mediocre and his command needs to be fine for him to succeed.
Overall, Blackburn profiles as a fourth starter, although there’s a chance he could exceed that if he makes further progress with his secondary pitches.