Prospect Files: Travis Blackley

Regarded as one of the top young pitchers in the Mariners organization, Travis Blackley is only 21 years old but plans on starting 2004 in Triple-A Tacoma.'s Jason A. Churchill takes a look at his career up to this point, and where the road might lead for the left-handed Australian in the near future.

Position: Starting Pitcher
Born: Nov. 4, 1982
Place: Melbourne, Australia
Ht: 6-3
Wt: 195
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
How Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Mariners in 2000

Signed out of Cheltenham High School in Victoria Australia in 2000, Blackley began his career with an arm injury, subsequent surgery, and a fantastic first season as a pro with the Everett Aqua Sox in 2001. The injury occured during the 2001 season where the teenager unknowingly pitched with a fracture in his arm and broke the elbow in the instructional league while throwing a bullpen session. Before the injury Blackley was known solely as a control pitcher with solid off-speed stuff. Post-surgery the left-hander tacked on a few MPH to his heater and began using the heater more often and dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues.

The Northwest League proved to be solid grooming ground for a teenage pitcher as Blackley strolled through the 2001 season posting a 3.32 ERA with six wins and one loss in 14 starts. The Aussie hurler added 90 strikeouts and surrendered just 29 walks in 78.2 innings pitched. Blackley was named as Everett's pitcher of the year in 2001.

Having skipped a level, Blackley jumped to Advanced-A ball and joined the San Bernardino Stampede for 2002. Despite just five victories and nine defeats in 20 starts, the lefty earned all-star honors after putting up a 3.49 ERA with 152 strikeouts and just 44 walks in 121.1 innings.

Proving to be Blackley's finest season yet, 2003 took the southpaw to San Antonio where he'd join the defending Texas League Champion Missions. Pitching his way to a 17-3 record, it was clear that the 20-year-old was on the fast track to big things and did nothing to hinder that idea with 27 starts of brilliance. Adding a 2.61 ERA and 144 strikeouts to his league leading 17 victories, Blackley went into the postseason and continued the Missions dominance, aiding in the club's second consecutive TL title.

Blackley was the youngest starter in a rotation that consisted of fellow prospects Clint Nageotte, Cha Seung Baek, Bobby Madritsch, and for half of the year, Rett Johnson. The left-hander boasts the most mound presence and maturity of any of the bunch, and despite the reputation as a soft-tosser, is one of baseball's best pitching prospects. Blackley was named the Texas League's Pitcher of the Year for 2003.

Set to start the 2004 campaign in Triple-A Tacoma, Blackley could see time at SAFECO Field before Jamie Moyer can say the word "retire".

Armed with a fastball that hits 86-91 MPH, a plus curve and a plus change-up, Blackley shouldn't have any issues finding work in Major League Baseball.

Tools: Grading Scale

Fastball: 50
Consistently reaching the high 80's and occasionally the low 90's, Blackley's fastball rates as a Major League average pitch.

Curve: 70+
By the time Blackley reaches the big leagues his curve might rate an 80, the highest rating on the scale. Blackley will not hesitate to throw the curve ball at any point in the count and is not afraid to throw it in the strike zone, as many young pitchers are. His command is his best asset with all three of his pitches. The curve is one of two fantastic off-speed pitches for the left-hander.

Change-Up: 70 Blackley's arsenal would not be complete without his signature pitch, the good old-fashioned change-up. Blackley is often compared to Jamie Moyer due to the change-up similarities, but the pitcher he most resembles is Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox due to his ability to climb the velocity ladder with the fastball as well as entice easy outs with a tantalizing change.

Mound Presence: 80 Perhaps his best talent, along with his advanced command, is his ability to control the game, even in a tough situation. He rarely seems rattled and never seems to forget what his main objective within the situation is. Blackley seems to coach himself more than the average minor league pitcher, and his overall pitching intelligence is a glaring strength.

Intangibles: 70 Blackley has no glaring weaknesses, whether it be within his pitching arsenal, or his intangibles such as coachability, maturity, and progressability. This is one 21-year-old that will not need to learn to pitch, once he makes the majors.

MLB ETA: 2004 (September)

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