I have always been a fan of the underdog. When it comes to minor league baseball, college seniors who sign as non drafted free agents (NDFA) are some of the biggest underdogs. There is one such NDFA on this year's G-Stros roster that I am pulling for to do well.
There were 1238 players drafted in the 2012 MLB draft. Brian Blasik wasn't one of them. He had a successful college career. He made All Atlantic 10 for three years. He set a Dayton record for stolen bases. He lead the league in hits his senior year and finished with the third highest batting average. He was named a third team All American by Louisville Slugger and lead Dayton to their first NCAA Tourney appearance. Yet, he wasn't drafted.
The Astros offered him a chance to play pro ball and he has taken full advantage of it. Last night, Blasik went 3 for 3 with his 10th double of the year. He is now hitting (.384 - 2nd in league) and has 33 hits (tied for 1st in league). He has just eight strike outs in 86 at bats. He has made just two errors at second base this season. Blasik also has had a tendency to get the big hit when it is needed. He is hitting .585 with runners on base and .500 with runners in scoring position. Of his 33 hits, 24 have come with runners on base.
Yet, Blasik is old for the league at 22. I did a post earlier this year that looked at the ages of players who played in the Appy League who did make it to the show. Since 2004, the year Greeneville got the Astros affiliate, there had been 102 players who had played in the Appy who had appeared in at least one major league game. Of those 102 players, 84 were between the ages of 18-21 when they played here. Only nine players who made it to the big leagues were 22 and of those nine, six were pitchers. One of the three position players was Yunel Escobar who was a Cuban refugee and only played a handful of games. We will look at the other two players in a moment.
First let's look at the best 22 year old players Greeneville has had in the past.
Back in 2004, there was Neil Sellers, a 32nd round pick out of Eastern Kentucky who hit .285 and played 3rd for Greeneville. He made it as high as AAA and played affiliated ball until this year.
In 2005, Eli Iorg was a 1st round supplemental pick from the University of Tennessee. He should have played at a higher level but rumor has it, he came to Greeneville because he was rehabbing an injury and his doctors were just down the road in Knoxville. The outfielder climbed quickly through the Astros system but was released at AAA in 2009.
Most recently, Chris Wallace, a 16th round draft pick out of the University of Houston, played in Greeneville in 2010. He made the Appy League all star team and has climbed quickly to AA. The catcher is currently repeating AA this season.
Blasik is currently hitting fifty points higher than any of those three and his on base and slugging are comparable.
Now let's look at the two who have made it.
Interestingly, they are both second basemen and both from the Twins system. Since the Twins, don't have a Short Season A ball team, they often have slightly older players than the rest of the league.
Matt Tolbert was a 16th round pick out of Ole Miss. He played in 33 games for the E-twins in 2004 and hit .308 in 33 games. He made six errors in 119 chances for a fielding percentage of 0.950. He made his MLB debut in 2008 and has played in 247 MLB games for the Twins. He was a free agent after last season and signed with the Cubs. He has spent all of 2012 in AAA. He has played 2nd, SS & 3rd in the majors and has also played the three outfield spots in the minors.
Brian Dinkelman was an 8th round pick out of McKendree University in 2006. He played in 46 games with the E-twins that season. He hit .298 and made just three errors in 186 chances at 2nd. Dinkelman made his MLB debut last season and played in 23 games. He diversified as he moved up splitting time between second and the corner outfield positions. He has played in just 35 games at AAA most at LF and DH this season.
How does Blasik stack up?
Quite honestly, statistically, he looks better at this point in time.
The only area where Blasik isn't exceeding these guys performance is in walks taken. He is currently walking about as often as Jose Altuve.
Blasik, like all NDFAs is a long shot. However, if he keeps performing at this level, he can have a solid career in pro ball. It appears he has the bat and his defense is solid at 2nd and he has some flexibility as he also played other positions (SS & OF) in college and in wood bat leagues.
Time will tell if he turns out to be just another organizational roster filler or the one the scouts missed in the draft. But he will definitely be one to keep an eye on as he makes his journey.