Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Nick Blasi, OF

Nick Blasi has been one of the best success stories in the Oakland A's farm system this season. Blasi began the year in High-A Stockton and was given an opportunity at Triple-A when injuries struck. He took advantage of that opportunity in a big way, seizing a starting job with the River Cats by hitting around .300. We spoke to Blasi on Wednesday about his breakthrough season.

A year that started off in somewhat disappointing fashion for Nick Blasi has turned into a dream season for the outfielder. After posting an 849 OPS in 59 games for the High-A Stockton Ports during the second half of 2006, Blasi appeared poised for a promotion to Double-A at the start of the 2007 season. However, Blasi was sent back to High-A Stockton to start the 2007 campaign.

Blasi got off to a bit of a slow start with Stockton. He hit only .239 in 109 at-bats for the Ports. Yet when injuries decimated the Sacramento River Cats' roster in early May, Blasi was called-up to Sacramento to fill-in. He was expected to be in Sacramento for only a few days, but when Antonio Perez went down with a knee injury, an opportunity for Blasi opened up for him to play everyday at the Triple-A level.

Blasi seized that opportunity fully. He hit .348 during the month of May and since that time, Blasi has been a fixture in the River Cats' line-up with the exception of a one-week stint with Double-A Midland, when he hit .393 in seven games for the Rockhounds. Through Thursday, Blasi was hitting .299 at Triple-A in 85 games after collecting four hits and a walk during Thursday night's 3-2 Sacramento loss.

"He has certainly raised his stock in the eyes of the organization with his performance and that is just really the definition of taking advantage of an opportunity," Farhan Zaidi, Oakland A's Baseball Operations Analyst, said of Blasi back in late June.

OaklandClubhouse.com caught-up with Blasi on Wednesday to discuss his adjustment from High-A to Triple-A and more…

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on a great season. Did you ever imagine at the start of the season that you would be an everyday player in Triple-A?

Nick Blasi: No, I didn't. Not at all. When we [Stockton] played them at the start of the year [in a spring training exhibition at Raley Field in Sacramento], I always thought that it would be great to play there someday.

OC: When you were first called up to Sacramento, it seemed like it would be for only a few days, but then it turned into a long-term assignment. What sort of adjustments did you have to make going right from High-A to Triple-A?

NB: I think I just made the adjustments subconsciously, I don't know. What I did was just trust myself. I went back to trusting myself and knowing that I could play this game. Before, at the lower levels, I was still trying to figure out what I needed to be doing in order to play pro ball. When I got thrown-in up here, I realized that I had to do something to compete, so I just starting playing how I knew how to play and it worked out.

OC: What are the biggest changes for you in terms of the competition between High-A and Triple-A?

NB: When I got up here, everyone was talking about the speed of the game and how much faster it is here than it is in the lower levels and that it is even faster in the major leagues. I didn't really notice that at first because your body adjusts to it when you are at the higher level, but when I got sent back down to Double-A for that week, I noticed how much slower the game is there than it is up here. Just the game-speed. Not so much the game-time or the actual speed of the game, but the game-play. The scouting reports are so much better up here and everything in the game moves so much faster. You really can't make too many mistakes in Triple-A.

OC: Did that one week in Midland help you at all when you returned to Sacramento?

NB: Oh, yeah, it did. In Midland, I faced 92 [MPH]-plus every day, but the pitchers didn't really know how to pitch yet. It helped me to relax and wait for my pitch. I think that helped when I came back here [to Sacramento]. I also noticed that the strike-zones are bigger down there. You don't realize it until you get back up here. [laughed] It really just helps with your selectivity.

OC: Were you disappointed to be sent back to Stockton at the start of the season after having a very strong second half of the year with the Ports in 2006?

NB: Yeah, I was really disappointed, but what can you do? You go where they assign you and you hope that you play well and move up. It worked out.

OC: Do you feel like your time at Sacramento has opened the A's eyes to the type of player that you are?

NB: Yeah, definitely. Everything is about opportunity and I know that sounds bad, but I hope I didn't hurt myself with my effort here. I think maybe they have a plan for me now, which is definitely nice.

OC: I know you've played a lot of centerfield with Sacramento this year. Is that a position you are comfortable with or are you more a corner outfielder?

NB: I like centerfield better. In college and high school, my whole life I played center. Then I got to pro ball, and I just stopped playing center. I didn't know why, but then I got up here at the highest minor league level and I'm playing centerfield. It's funny, but I like it.

OC: For an organization that doesn't run much, you have compiled some impressive stolen base totals during your career. Do you generally have a green light or does the team generally dictate when you run?

NB: I don't have a full-time green light, but the manager will let me know when he wants me to have a green light in a particular game. He never gives me specific stolen base signs.

OC: So from game-to-game it might change?

NB: From game-to-game or from on-base-to-on-base. As soon as I get to first base, he'll give me the green light or he won't, depending on the game situation.

OC: As you've moved up levels, have you had to learn to read pitchers better and not just rely on speed?

NB: Yeah, because the catchers and the pitchers are better. It's about the same when it comes to actually reading the pitchers because they don't tend to change their tendencies as they move up.

OC: Were there any players in particular who helped you adjust to Triple-A and feel comfortable when you got there?

NB: They are all great guys. I had played with Kevin Melillo and Kurt Suzuki, who was here before, and Jeff Gray in past years. And, of course, Lou Merloni and Jeremy Brown just make everything so much fun. It's probably one of the most fun teams I've ever played on, actually.

OC: Has the intensity of the games picked up as you guys get closer to hopefully clinching a playoff spot?

NB: Yeah, you know, it's kind of neat because the intensity has picked up, but we have lost a lot of players to the big leagues. Despite the player movement, the intensity has picked up and you can tell that everyone wants to win and do well no matter how long they have been on the team. Everyone is just having fun.

OC: I know you have hit in different spots in the order this season. Earlier in the year, you were down in the bottom of the order and recently you have been hitting lead-off. Do you have a different mentality depending on where you are hitting in the order?

NB: I use a different approach when I am at the top of the line-up. When you are hitting one or two, you are going to see a whole bunch of different pitches in different counts, so you really have to be ready. When I first got here and was hitting ninth, I felt like the pitchers were saying ‘oh, he's that guy just up from A-ball. Let's see if he can hit.' They would challenge me a lot and they tried to see if they could just blow the ball by me and they made me prove myself. When I am hitting in the nine-hole, I tend to be a little more aggressive.

OC: Do you notice that you are seeing more off-speed pitches now that you have been in the league a little longer?

NB: Oh, yeah. A lot more 2-0 off-speed and off-speed pitches in every count, really.

OC: Is that something you've had to adjust to, as well?

NB: It just makes you think more. They can really change speeds and change where they throw their pitches up here.

OC: Do you have any plans for the off-season?

NB: I always work pretty hard in the off-season and I don't plan to change anything this off-season. I usually work out everyday except maybe for Saturday or Sunday. I try to do baseball stuff three or four times of week, as well. I enjoying putting in a lot of work.

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