Top Prospect #6: Jake Blalock

The Phillies must have been big fans of the Rancho Bernardo High School team. In the 2002 Draft, two of the Phillies first five picks came from the school as they grabbed Cole Hamels (first round) and Jake Blalock (fifth round) to bolster their farm system. Blalock put up big numbers at Lakewood in 2004 and looks to move to Clearwater in '05.

Besides being drafted, Jake Blalock may have his brother to thank for his favorite baseball moment. Growing up behind Hank Blalock, the Texas Rangers All-Star third baseman, the two shared a love for the game and have constantly pushed each other. Last summer, it was Hank who struck with the family's biggest baseball moment when he homered to win the All-Star Game. "It was so great to see him win the all-star game and I just always get excited when he does well, because we're so close," said the younger Blalock. Eventually, the two could easily be squaring off against each other in an All-Star Game of the future.

After playing shortstop in college, the Phillies drafted Blalock as a third baseman, looking for him to follow in his brother's footsteps. Soon though, the change was made to send the younger Blalock to the outfield and let him seek his future there. "It's an adjustment, but I've always felt that you just have to deal with it and do what you can to make it work," said Blalock. He's adapted well and the Phillies and many baseball experts feel that down the road, the two Blalock's will be long-standing stars of Major League Baseball.

Early in his minor league career, the power numbers were non-existent. Playing his first two years in short-season leagues, Blalock managed a total of six homeruns. This past season, he was at Lakewood and launched 16, finishing just behind Randy Ruiz (17) for the team lead. "I didn't worry about the numbers too much. You just go out and work hard and the numbers will take care of themselves. It's all a matter of just putting things together and adjusting," reports Blalock. Although Blalock missed out on leading the team in homeruns, he set Lakewood single season marks in doubles (40) and RBI (90), surpassing the mark set by Ryan Howard a couple seasons ago. "It's nice to set a mark like that, but in the long run, no one's going to remember it. It's just all about doing what you can to help the team win and making yourself as good as you can possibly be," said Blalock.

2002 Gulf Coast 1 13 .250 25 88 13 22 6 0 3 10 15 .317
2003 Batavia 5 31 .245 72 261 36 64 23 7 9 30 81 .323
2004 Lakewood 16 90 .271 131 517 81 140 40 2 4 61 126 .350
Career 22 134 .261 228 866 130 226 69 9 16 101 222 .338

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies out of Rancho Bernardo High School in the fifth round of the 2002 Draft.

Batting and Power: All along, scouts believed that Blalock had the kind of power that could one day place him near the top of the league in homeruns. That may be a bit of a stretch, but he certainly has a lot of natural power. His brother Hank has hit 61 homeruns over the past two seasons and Jake should be able to duplicate those numbers, at least, once he gets established in the majors.

Baserunning and Speed: The Blalock boys have surprising speed. Hank Blalock once stole 31 bases in a minor league season. Jake likely won't hit that number and he is a little slower than his big brother, but he'll steal a base here and there. He also has a lot of energy on the bases and loves to take an extra base here and there. Fielders have to be on their toes or Blalock will take advantage of them.

Defense: He's played short, he's played third, now he's in the outfield. You might think that Blalock hasn't had a chance to settle in and get comfortable defensively, but he has. He's strong defensively - made just four errors last season - and has an above average arm. He has the tools to play either corner outfield spot and will likely stay in the outfield throughout his career. The nice thing is that if the Phillies do need him to return to third base, he could likely handle that as well.

Projection: Blalock will move to Clearwater this season. The Phillies seem content to move him along a level at a time and they'll likely continue that this season. Blalock just turned 21 last August, so he's still learning the game and developing his skills. Remember, the Phillies got him out of high school, where he coincidentally, played with Cole Hamels, who was the Phillies first round pick in the 2002 Draft. Down the road, Blalock should be able to anchor a position in a major league lineup and be a middle of the order hitter without much of a problem.

ETA: If the level per season theory holds, then Blalock may get a September call-up in 2007. It's likely that he'll get a taste of major league camp before then and by the following spring, he should be ready to go.

Comparison: Considering the sour grapes of many Phillies' fans, they may not like this comparison, but here it goes; Scott Rolen. The two are very similar players and Blalock should put up the kind of numbers that fans in St.Louis will be accustomed to seeing Rolen put up season after season in a Cardinals uniform.

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