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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Travis Blackley

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 11/4/82, Age: 20, Height: 6’3’’, Weight: 190, Bats: L, Throws: L. Acquired: Mariners - Signed out of Cheltenham Secondary HS (Australia) in 2000. 2002 Stats: (High-A - San Bernardino) 5-9, 3.49 ERA, 121 IP, 102 H, 11 HR, 44 BB, 152 K. 2003 Stats: (AA - San Antonio) 6-2, 2.18 ERA, 58 IP, 37 H, 2 HR, RHRH30 BB, 48 K.
   Travis Blackley is one of a fair number of high-quality Mariner “imports” from Australia over the past several seasons. Along with Chris Snelling and Craig Anderson, Blackley represents the benefits of the foray the Mariners have made down under. Blackley, a late bloomer who didn’t represent his state’s under-18 team until his last year of eligibility, is a projectable lefty that has dominated every level he has played at despite being much younger than average at his past few stops. He is “projectable” in that he is 6’3’’ and 190, leaving some room on his frame for some bulk (and thus added velocity). He already throws in the high 80’s, which is above average for a 20 year old lefty. His curveball is fantastic by all accounts, and his changeup is also a plus pitch, although less consistent than his two primary offerings. His command is going to be his major stumbling block, if there is one. It’s quite clear that hitters more advanced in age than he (on average) are not able to hit him with any consistency. His H/9 and HR/9 rates are fantastic, even without considering the age discrepancy. Giving up the amount of free passes that he does has not hurt him yet, but it certainly will at some point. He’s walking over 4.5 per nine this season, which is up from 3.3 last year. A walk every two innings will be too much to overcome against good lineups, so that will be one area that needs to improve before the M’s come calling. San Antonio was also the third most favorable pitchers’ park in the minors last season, and Blackley’s BA against on balls in play is extremely low, so some of his numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt (the small sample size caveat might apply). Nit picking aside, Blackley is 20 years old and dominating AA hitters, which would be a fantastic sign if his home park were in Death Valley. He’s going to have a big league career.
    I was surprised when I reviewed the Mariners’ major league roster. They have the best record in baseball right now, but I’m not sure they have a player that jumps out at you as being one of the best few players at their position (except Edgar, who might be the first player in history to qualify for a courtesy runner). Not only that, but their “ace” has been horrific for almost a year now, and they only have one player in their starting lineup that is still on the upside of the development curve. (Ben Davis) Their minor league system isn’t loaded, but there is clearly some help on the way. Jamie Moyer can’t possibly hang on for much longer, (can he?) and Rafael Soriano is definitely ready to step into that spot. Joel Piniero and Gil Meche are young and pitching very well, and Garcia will just turn 27 next week. That’s four spots that seem to be nailed down, and Ryan Franklin is no pushover for the fifth spot, although he doesn’t strike out enough batters to maintain his current successes. Basically, there isn’t a lot of room for the pitching prospects, and San Antonio has a well-stocked rotation featuring Clint Nageotte, Rett Johnson, and Matt Thornton in addition to Travis Blackley. One possible outcome is that Garcia will end up elsewhere, and Franklin will sop up some innings (or they’ll commit to Soriano sooner) until Nageotte and Blackley, the best two of the bunch at AA, are ready. With Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Snelling hanging around on the hitting side of things, the old Mariners have a decent amount of youth at their disposal once it becomes necessary to make some changes. As for Blackley, he will probably struggle a bit more as he harnesses his control at AA, but he is on pace to reach Seattle by age 22 at the latest. It is extremely rare to see a pitcher exhibit this type of success at Blackley’s age, but as we all know, there are no perfect indicators. Case in point: one of Blackley’s better comparables is Sterling Hitchcock, a pitcher for whom it never quite came together. That kind of a career is probably the downside for Blackley (with the inevitable injury caveat once again), much as it was for Hitchcock, which I suppose lends some comfort to those rooting for him. His upside is fantastic. I would look for his first big league start sometime next summer, when the M’s need someone for a run of the mill midsummer game, unless by some chance they clinch the division with some time remaining this year and give him a shot in September.


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