Still Keeping an Eye on Clayton Blackburn
A San Francisco Giants pitching prospect who doesn’t get a lot of mention in many circles, Clayton Blackburn is ever so slowly but steadily moving towards the major leagues.
A 16th round draft pick out of high school in 2011, Blackburn pitched tremendously well in 2012 at age 19 in the full season A Sally League. His numbers haven’t been as impressive as he’s moved up the ladder of professional baseball, he’s still been good enough that it’s a little surprising we don’t hear more about him as a prospect.
This year Blackburn currently has a 4.33 ERA after nine AAA appearances, seven of them starts. His pitching line is 43.2 IP, 48 hits, 1 HR and 15 walks allowed and 37 Ks. Those are pretty good numbers for a 22 year old in his first taste of AAA baseball.
Blackburn missed at least five starts last year with an oblique injury, and I had some concerns last year about his conditioning, as he was reported to weigh 260 lbs, which is fat for a guy 21 years old and 6’3″. This year, however, he’s listed as 230 lbs, which suggests he may have gotten religion last off-season and gotten himself into shape.
The photo currently on milb.com of Blackburn appears to be last year’s photo with AA Richmond when he was a fat-ass, or at least a pudge-ball (sorry Clayton, but the picture bears me out). It also appears that the Giants are being extremely careful about how much Blackburn pitches this season, which either suggests minor injuries or a desire by the team not to bring him along too quickly and kill the golden goose.
It’s worth noting in this vein that much more highly recognized top prospect Kyle Crick has only pitched a total of 41.1 innings in 10 starts in AA ball this year after also having some minor injuries in 2014. This strongly suggests the Giants are just being careful with both Crick and Blackburn more than anything else.
At any rate, Blackburn still seems well on course for a major league debut as a starter at age 24 in 2017. For some reason, former Oakland A Joe Blanton comes to mind as a possible comp for Clayton Blackburn, at least if things break right for Clayton and the Giants.
Meanwhile, Kyle Crick is still basically on course for a 2017 debut as a Giants starter. He has much higher upside than Blackburn, as everyone recognizes, but Crick is now a minor league level behind Blackburn because the former still is unable to command the strike zone. In fact, while Crick’s 2015 ERA is currently 1.4 runs lower than last year, his ratios are a little worse overall than they were at the same level (AA) last year. Crick isn’t going to be a successful major league pitcher, for more than a few months at least, until he finds the strike zone on a consistent basis.