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Prospect Profile: Jabari Blash

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Jabari Blash has been tearing it up in Jackson so far. Could he help the M's with their outfield problem any time soon?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone has different methods of getting away from things when the Mariners are discouraging. Some will re-watch tape of Felix's perfect game. Some will direct their fandom towards other sports, like hockey or basketball or soccer. Others will remove themselves from sports altogether and develop new hobbies, like gardening or hiking or watching Game of Thrones.

My personal remedy for this is keeping up with the M's minor league affiliates. I know, I know. It's a near-pointless practice. I do realize that most of the players I will follow and grow attached to will just flame out after moving up to Jackson (if they're hitters) or High Desert (if they're pitchers) or however long it takes them for someone to throw them a curveball. However, such a practice also gives me something else: hope in the Seattle Mariners.

Lately, my curiosity and hope has taken me to outfielder Jabari Blash, the 24-year old (will be 25 in July) who currently resides in Double-A Jackson. Blash was an eighth-round pick by the M's in 2010 and there was actually a good amount of hype surrounding the kid out of the draft (well, as much hype as you can get in an eighth-rounder). Scouts loved his raw power but were, as they usually are with power hitters, concerned about his ability to hit things that didn't fly straight. This from Jay Yencich of U.S.S. Mariner in his Jackson Generals preview early in the month:

Blash was one of those guys brought in from the minor league camp that had people talking during the Cactus League season.  I like that.  Makes me happy.  But when you hit home runs as far as Blash supposedly was hitting them, it’s easy to get noticed.  The funny thing about all this is that people are talking it’s a clear disappointment that he’s back in double-A when he did what he did in double-A.  He was only in Jackson for a month’s worth of games.  Sure, compare what he did in that span to the league average and you get a +.066/+.122/+.256 differential, but his strikeouts were also a little high and you can’t really say that it was enough time for the league to adjust to him.

Here's where the news gets better. Look at his BB% and K% over his years in the minors.

Year Level(s) BB% K%
2010 R+ 10.2% 34.6%
2011 A-/A 16.8% 27.6%
2012 A 12.7% 28.6%
2013 A+/AA 13.3% 25.0%
2014 (so far) AA 23.3% 20.9%

Overall, he's been cutting down on the strikeouts while slowly drawing more walks, to the point where he has even drawn more walks than he has struck out in 2014 (22 BB/19 K in 90 plate appearances). In fact, he's drawn seven walks in his last three games. This doesn't appear to be a case of pitchers just stupidly throwing him nothing but meatballs either, as Generals' broadcaster Chris Harris notes:

That's extremely encouraging. Especially for a guy whose main weakness was his inability to deal with off-speed and breaking stuff.

Oh yeah, and about that home run JY mentioned, here's the only video I can find of his monster homer during an intra-squad spring training game this year (skip ahead to 6:45 for the shot). The ball went 425+ feet. Ryan Divish also notes that:
Blash does that have that kind of raw power. Of course he strikes out a lot. The easy comparison is to call him a right-handed Carlos Peguero. But coaches have said Blash processes teaching much better than Peguero did.
The sad thing is that, over his minor league career, Blash's contact rate has been pretty similar to Peguero's. The big difference is that Peguero was not nearly as patient and could pretty much only hit curveballs. Plus, over his two seasons in Jackson (SSS warning), Blash's contact rate has risen from a shitty 62.1% last season to a still-bad-but-getting-there 69.6% rate this year.

MLB.com lists Blash as only the No. 20 prospect in the Mariner organization. He was only added to the list at all because Ji-Man Choi got suspended for PED's and was removed from the list entirely. Blash isn't getting the kind of hype he deserves, and right now he looks better than pretty much every hitting prospect in the system not named Chris Taylor.

Could Blash be the long-term solution for the M's outfield woes? Only time will tell. There is still so much about Blash we don't know for certain, and all of this data could just be small sample size noise. But the fact that his two biggest weaknesses as a hitter (low contact rate and inability to hit anything that isn't a fastball) are being addressed so far this year is very encouraging. It's nice to have a power hitter in the system who doesn't have mad strikeout problems for once, and he's definitely a guy to watch for.

Also, he's one of the only two Jabaris in the history of professional baseball. The other is also in the Mariner organization. That's awesome.