The Great Rule 5 Experiment

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Mar 22, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Jabari Blash (62) hits a home run during the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Jabari Blash (62) hits a home run during the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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Apr 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Padres pinch hitter Jabari Blash (32) heads home to score a run in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Padres pinch hitter Jabari Blash (32) heads home to score a run in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Jabari Blash Profile

Jabari Blash is here for one reason, and one reason only: To hit baseballs over the wall. The 27-year old has monstrous power, the kind that makes people stop what they’re doing to watch his at-bats. Like Perdomo, his time in the minors was largely unremarkable until last season. A slow six-year climb through the minors showed flashes of power, like in 2013 when he hit 25 in 109 games between A ball and AA. But in 2015, in a 56-game span in AAA, he connected for 22 bombs, slugging at a .640 rate, and homering once every nine at-bats.

That kind of power doesn’t come along every day. And that’s why the Padres traded for Blash after the A’s took him from Seattle in the draft. But his AAA batting average was only .240 over two years (.210 in 2014 and .264 in 2015). Even last year, he was still striking out at a 32% rate. Among qualified hitters in the majors last year, only Chris Davis whiffed at a higher rate (36%). And Davis hit 47 homers and drove in 117 runs. I’m not saying that Blash has to put up those kinds of numbers to stay put. But when you strike out almost a third of the time, you’d better be producing something that other players can’t.

At the age of 27, Blash has a much shorter window for success than the 22-year old Perdomo. If both manage to make it through this season with the Padres, Perdomo can realistically be sent back down for additional work in the minors next season. Blash, in what should be the beginning of his career prime years, may be a less likely candidate to be sent back down next year. He is almost aging out of “prospect” range, and the number of power hitters who make it to the majors at age 29 or older is small. So the Padres are hoping that Blash finds a way to learn how to hit major league pitching on the job.

He hasn’t had much success yet, with three hits in 17 AB, giving him a .176 average with no homers.  Through 14 games, he has gotten three starts. At the current rate, he is on a pace to accumulate only 196 AB. At a time when consistent at-bats are crucial to his development, he is just not getting many.

And that is the dilemma for teams with Rule 5 guys. The players aren’t ready to provide consistent results at the major league level, and yet they need consistent work in order to improve.

A bad season for the Padres might be the best thing for Perdomo and Blash. If the team is out of the playoff race early, that could provide opportunities for more playing time. In a way, having some Rule 5 guys on your team is a good way to hedge your bets. If the season turns out to be a bust, at least you’ve got some talented young players getting major league experience.

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