NASHVILLE -- After seven years in the Boston Red Sox organization, catcher Carson Blair is hoping a strong finish to the 2015 season with the Nashville Sounds will be enough to allow him to stick with the Oakland A's organization beyond this year.
Signed out of high school by the Red Sox after being drafted in the 35th round of the 2008 draft, Blair spent the next seven years in the Boston system before getting an opportunity on the minor league free agent market last winter. He signed with the A's in November of last year, hopeful that a change in scenary would speed up his development.
Blair admitted there was not a lot of initial interest when he hit the open market last winter.
“To be honest, no, not really,” Blair said. “[Oakland] called really early and other teams weren't as organized as Oakland – they kind of didn't know what they needed or wanted yet. Oakland was prepared and knew what they wanted and said, 'This is how we see you fitting,' and so I went from there.”
Blair never advanced beyond Double-A in the Red Sox organization, appearing in just 17 games above the A-ball level during his Red Sox career. After a stint in major league camp with the A's, he was assigned to Oakland's Double-A team in Midland to start the year. After posting a slash line of .272/.389/.509 for an OPS of 898 in 55 games with the RockHounds, Blair finally got that opportunity above Double-A and he was promoted to Triple-A Nashville.
Since joining the Sounds, Blair's bat has cooled off. Through Sunday, he carried a slash line of .227/.287/.336, but he did go 5-for-16 during a five game hitting streak from August 13-20 and he has homered twice in his last four games. Despite the dip in offensive numbers, Blair has still impressed the A's coaching staff during his time with the Sounds. A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman told OaklandClubhouse in an interview in late July that Blair is "[o]ne of the most athletic catchers that we have had in our system in a long, long time."
"He has a really good arm and flexibility," Lieppman said. "He really can swing the bat. I didn’t really expect to see the adjustments that he has made with the bat – cutting his swing down and hitting the way that he has. He has really done a good job. He was a great acquisition as a free agent.
"We finally got an opportunity to move him to Triple-A and he has been excellent in the month since he has been up there. I think all of us have liked what we have seen. He is learning how to lead a very veteran staff, which is pretty interesting. ...[T]his is probably the best experience that he could have to work with guys who have spent some time in the big leagues. He is sucking it all in. He can’t get it in fast enough. It will benefit him in the long run in the game."
The A's generally add one catcher from their Triple-A roster to their big league team in September when rosters expand. With his breakout season, Blair has put himself in the running to be that September call-up. Blair says he has no sense of where he fits into the overall plans for the A's organization, but he is enjoying his time with Oakland.
“Now, I have no idea [where he fits into the organization], but in the off-season it was obviously a completely different scenario,” he said. “The roster changed and a lot has happened, obviously, but it's been enjoyable – that's for sure.”
The 25-year-old Texas native is set to become a free agent again after the World Series, but he hopes to be back. If the A's do add Blair to their 40-man roster in September, he will be under team control going into next season as long as he remains on the A's 40-man roster.
“This year has been a lot of fun,” he said. “I'm in a great organization that has treated me well. I couldn't ask for any more on their part. They've been great guys, and I've gotten to meet a lot of new faces.
“[Free agency] is definitely a bridge we'll cross after this season is over. Right now, I have to finish this season and worry about it first. Who knows if they'll even want me. So, I've got to finish this one strong before the next one even matters.”
Blair said while he is hoping to make a solid impression during this last bit of the season, but he said he is not pressing.
“If I try to hit homers, then everything is going to go down the drain and my numbers will be terrible,” Blair said. “I just would like to have consistent at-bats and be solid behind the plate. Just control what I can control.
“I can't control about throwing everybody out, but I can control making a good throw. I can't control if I get 20 hits in these last games or zero, but I can have good at-bats and hit the ball hard.”