Clayton Blackburn Scouting Report (2014)
One of the Giants’ top ten prospects, Clayton Blackburn has cruised through the the lower minors. In striking out more than a batter per inning and issuing fewer than two walks per nine innings pitched, the right-hander has sterling peripherals and youth on his side. The statistical analysis points to Blackburn being an impact pitcher at the Major League level. A decade ago, pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit broke many SABRists’ hearts. He became the cautionary tale for those who abandon scouting in favor of stats alone. Is Blackburn is the latest example of this methodology? As Chris saw in 2012, breaking down Blackburn requires an in person look.
Clayton Blackburn, listed at 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, has ideal height with a well filled out frame. His upper half is thick with excess weight around his mid-section. The lower half is well proportioned to support his frame. Blackburn is fully developed physically with no projection remaining. The body is not a concern unless the right-hander adds additional weight.
Blackburn has low effort mechanics with a slow tempo and conservative stride. He repeats the motion well with no obvious mechanical faults in his easy arm action. It is not a delivery geared for premium velocity though. The Pitcher employs the “tall and fall” method, pausing over the rubber during his leg lift, creating moderate separation between the hips and shoulders. The ball is delivered from a 10 o’clock arm slot.
The primary pitch in Clayton Blackburn’s arsenal is an upper 80’s sinker. His arm angle helps produce significant tail and sharp sinking action, making the pitch difficult to square up. The result is weak ground outs. Blackburn can reach back and touch the low 90’s with a four-seam fastball, but neither fastball will miss bats. However, movement trumps a lack of velocity, leaving the fastball an average pitch.
- Velocity High: 92MPH
- Velocity Low: 85 MPH
- Velocity Avg: 88.1 MPH
- Count: 58*
- Strike Pct.: 55.2%
- Swinging Strike Pct.: 3.4%
An 11-to-5 offering, Blackburn’s curveball is his most utilized off-speed pitch. It has depth, but lacks bite. Most often in the low 70’s — the pitch was loopy with consistent break, reaching its apex halfway to the plate. Hitters were rarely fooled, laying off breaking pitches out of the strike zone. Blackburn also flashed a mid 70’s curve with later, steeper break. One breaking ball crossed the plate at 79 MPH, down and in towards the feet of a left-handed batter with darting, slider-esque movement, resulting in a swinging strikeout.
- Velocity High: 75 MPH
- Velocity Low: 69 MPH
- Velocity Avg: 72.4 MPH
- Count: 10*
- Strike Pct.: 30.0%
- Swinging Strike Pct.: 10.0%
- Velocity High: 79 MPH
- Velocity Low: 79 MPH
- Velocity Avg: 79.0 MPH
- Count: 1*
- Strike Pct.: 100.0%
- Swinging Strike Pct.: 100.0%
The movement on Blackburn’s change-up mirrors the sinker with significant fade and some sinking action. However, action occurs early and the pitch has a tendency to float towards the plate. Hitters picked up the pitch well and didn’t swing-and-miss. Movement helped the pitch miss barrels, but one poorly located change-up was laced into left field by Willy Garcia for a single. Better command and feel would make this pitch more usable.
- Velocity High: 84 MPH
- Velocity Low: 78 MPH
- Velocity Avg: 80.8 MPH
- Count: 8*
- Strike Pct.: 50.0%
- Swinging Strike Pct.: 0.0%
Command & Control:
Control and command is one area where Clayton Blackburn is expected to shine. This was not the case. Blackburn’s sinker often tailed away from the target, sometimes into vulnerable areas or off of the plate entirely. He hit spots in spurts and showed the ability to throw the fastball to both sides of the plate. Pitch movement, and a tendency to keep the ball down helped mitigate mistakes made. Off-speed pitches were even more problematic. The curveball was pulled too far glove side, or simply broke around the plate. The change floated away from the target. The fringy off-speed pitches played down due to the poor location.
Blackburn has a good feel for pitching and utilizing his sinker. He works quickly and calmly, showing the ability to battle back when behind in the count. The rest of the profile is what will hold him back at the major league level. Beyond the sinker, the secondaries will be exposed without improved command. He has the body and delivery to start, along with the track record of success worthy of the opportunity. Blackburn’s ceiling rests in the back of a rotation, but a long relief/swing man role is the best fit.
Tool Present Future Projected Role No. 5 Starter or Swingman Fastball 5 5 Curveball 4 5 Change-up 3 4 Control 5 5 Command 4 4
Owning Clayton Blackburn
Every league has at least one owner who trusts stats over stuff. Identify him and pawn Blackburn off. He’s a sure bet to reach MLB, but carving out a long term role will be more difficult. Once baseball followers start comparing PITCHf/x data to the right-handers minor league stat lines, the profile will fall apart. Don’t be left holding the bag when Blackburn’s fantasy baseball value craters.
*Please note that this does not constitute every pitch that Blackburn threw during the evening. I spent the third inning on the third base side filming (all of these pitches were excluded) and missed a few readings from the remaining innings. I additionally want to thank Mike Passanisi of the Altoona Curve for granting me access and making this Clayton Blackburn scouting report possible.
30 Apr 2014 / Jeff Reese / 2
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