When the San Diego Padres dealt Yonder Alonso and Marc Rzepczynski to the Oakland Athletics in early December, not only did they receive a great left-handed pitcher in Drew Pomeranz and a decent LHP prospect in Jose Torres, but the team also attained a player to be named later from the A’s. That PTBNL turned out to be the first player selected in the 2016 Rule-5 Draft. Jabari Blash was selected from the Seattle Mariners with that first pick and he was immediately shipped to the Padres to complete the Alonso deal.
The lanky outfielder from the Virgin Islands has huge power potential. Blash hit 32 home runs last year in the Mariners minor league system. He did that while hitting .271 on the season and amassing an impressive .370 on base percentage. Blash has a contact issue though as he struck out 123 times in 406 at bats last year between Double-A and Triple-A. The hole in his swing will not be easily fixed, but like most power-hitters, teams will just live with the K’s if it the result is 40 plus homers on the season. The walks and possible high on base percentage is just icing on the cake for the Padres.
Blash has all he ability in the world but he is by no means a sure thing. He has worked his tail off in the minors, but it took him over five years to reach the major leagues. Blash is 26 right now and will be 27 in July. The tall outfielder is not a young prospect. The Padres need to see what they have in the young man now. The team cannot afford to just let him sit on the bench. He needs to play at this level and we need to see if he can make the adjustments.
Giving Blash at bats seems like an easy thing to do, but the Padres outfield is currently stacked. Matt Kemp is the teams superstar and will play almost every day. Jon Jay is the starting center fielder and one of the lone left-handed veteran bats in the lineup. He needs to play almost every day as well. That leaves left field where Melvin Upton Jr.is picking up right where he left off last season. He is really driving the ball to all fields and looks like a changed hitter in the batters box. He must play at this point as well. That leaves Jabari Bash out of luck. Factor in Travis Jankowski to this equation too as the speedy lead-off hitter has been getting playing time as well. In reality Blash is the Padres #5 outfielder.
The Padres are also stacked in the outfield position in the upper minor league levels. Hunter Renfroe, Alex Dickerson and Manuel Margot are all very close to being ready for major league service time. Dickerson played sparingly late last season going two for eight in September. The left-handed stick can play first base too and has the ability to be a decent major league player. All he has done so far in his minor league career is hit. He has a .300 career minor league average with a .368 on base percentage in 2,000 at bats.
Sadly Dickerson is buried behind the Padres depth at the position and will likely never be given an opportunity to play everyday for the Padres. Renfroe and Margot are two of the prized jewels of the Padres farm system. Both WILL be given every opportunity to play. With Upton, Kemp, Janowksi and Jay already in the majors and Renfroe, Dickerson and Magot knocking on the door, where does that leave Jabari Blash?
The fan base is in love with Blash. I am not quite sure why either. He has tons of power and is exciting to watch but those K’s are of serious concern. Factor in he has no place to play and the Padres are making an odd move in keeping him on their roster. If someone is dealt and Jabari can play then it makes sense. To have a 27-year-old sit on the bench for most of the year only to try to stash him away for next season seems silly. Especially when in 2017, Margot and Renfroe will be one more year advanced in their baseball abilities.
Blash is 2-15 with eight strikeouts right now. He had a very productive at bat on Tuesday in which he walked after a 12-pitch at bat. He laid off a few tough pitches down and away and fouled off some inside stuff as well. He battles up there and you can plainly see why he does walk a ton for a power hitter. Blash has a lot of ability, but are the Padres really handling him correctly?
At this point they are not. By no real fault of their own though. Jay, Kemp and Upton have to play. Each is currently hitting and all three are the most expensive position players on the team. He simply has no opening spot in the current starting lineup. His acquisition still leaves me scratching my head. What are the Padres doing? Do they have a plan that includes Blash and consistent at bats?
Jabari Blash needs to play. The management team needs to see the man swing the bat against the highest level of pitching. Nobody questions his power and ability, but those traits do not dictate a potential major leaguer. He needs to make advancements with his development and that can only be witnessed with him in the batters box. The Padres are in a tough spot right now. Blash needs at bats, but none of the three veteran outfielders can come out of the lineup. It could be a frustrating year for Jabari Blash and his fans. The at bats for the Virgin Islands slugger could be few and far between.