Outfield prospect racking up homers, walks but also strikeouts this spring
By AJ Cassavell
PEORIA, Ariz. -- A National League bench is no place to hide a Rule 5 Draft pick who isn't quite ready for the Major Leagues.
But Padres left fielder Jabari Blash has turned heads with his power and his patience this spring, and he's doing his best to prove he's ready for that chance.
"I've been through the grind before in the Minor Leagues," Blash said. "I understand how to keep my body healthy and what it takes to last through September. I'm definitely excited for the opportunity here."
Padres manager Andy Green was quick to point out the difficulties of Blash's potential bench role, but he also kept open the possibility of the 6-foot-5, 235-pound slugger winning a starting job.
"Coming off the bench in the Major Leagues is a very difficult job," Green said. "In his position, from a power hitter's perspective -- they need more timing, they need more at-bats. That's just how it usually works.
"But he might very well be our starting left fielder. There's time for that to continue to develop. We're not going to rule that out right now."
Blash, who came to the Padres as a piece in the trade that sent Yonder Alonso and Marc Rzepczynski to Oakland, remains a long shot to be given a starting nod out of the gate. But his power and his ability to reach base have thrust him to the forefront of the battle for an outfield spot.
As a Rule 5 Draft pick of the A's, Blash, ranked as the Padres' No. 16 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, would need to remain on the team's big league roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Mariners -- his original club -- after clearing waivers.
If you're a fan of the three true outcomes, Blash is your guy. His mantra at the plate is to be "dangerously disciplined," and entering play Thursday night, 70 percent of his at-bats had resulted in either a strikeout, a walk or a home run.
At times this spring, Blash has appeared overmatched -- including a stretch of 11 at-bats during which he struck out eight times. But he has complemented those stretches with reminders as to why he's here in the first place.
Blash put an emphatic halt to that dry spell Monday with a towering home run down the left-field line that seemed to hang in the air forever -- the type of moonshot only a handful of hitters on each team are capable of.
"He's got an obscene amount of power," said Green. "You see that in his batting practice. So far in spring, he's basically been a three-outcome guy. He's been a walk, a punchout or a home run. I think in time you're going to start seeing some base hits and some doubles. There's a lot to like."
Blash has always been a deep-ball threat -- and never more so than last season at Tacoma, where he homered every 8.9 at-bats and posted an obscene .376 isolated power mark.
He has just four hits (two of them homers) in 22 at-bats this spring, but still owns a .400 on-base percentage thanks to seven walks.
And about that 40 percent strikeout rate ...
"It's still early, and the timing isn't there at times," Blash said. "The sliders look a little better than they usually do.
"But I definitely feel confident. I'm not going to strike out this much during the season. I'm going to put a lot of balls in play and help this team get some runs in."
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.