Turn On The Power: Jake Blalock was billed as a power hitting prospect. That's one of the worst things you can do to a hitter. In four minor league seasons, Blalock has managed just 33 homeruns, but the good news is that 27 of them have come in the last two seasons. Blalock has upped his at bats / homerun mark from 58 at bats per longball over his first two seasons to 38 at bats per homerun over the last two seasons. It's a marked improvement, but doesn't put him in the category of the elite sluggers. To give you some grounds for comparison, Pat Burrell has homered once every 19 at bats in the majors and went deep once every 18 at bats as a minor leaguer. The prevailing theory is that Blalock may become a guy who can hit about 20 homeruns a season in the majors if he can refine his swing a little. Blalock tried to be more of a power hitter in 2003 and it failed miserably. He hit 5 homeruns in 261 at bats at Batavia, but everything else suffered. His average fell to a career low of .245 and he was striking out once every three at bats. The Phillies worked with him to cut down on his swing and his power actually increased and his strikeout ratios got better.
Swing And A Miss: Blalock's strikeout numbers aren't horrible, but they could improve a little, especially if he's not going to be the power hitter that most thought. In his minor league career, Blalock has whiffed once every 4.2 at bats. After his 2003 experiment of swinging hard just in case he made contact, Blalock changed his approach at the plate. After hitting .246 in his first two seasons and striking out once every 3.6 at bats, Blalock learned to use his natural power and talent. In 2004 and 2005, Blalock posted a .275 average but he struck out once every 2.3 at bats. Of course, with the power increase, his strikeouts could figure to go up. The bottom line is that Blalock still strikes out too much, but improved his strikeout ration in 2005 without dramatically decreasing his homeruns. The good news is that Blalock walked 60 times last season, one short of his career-high and good enough to finish third in the Florida State League in walks. Had Blalock gotten the 15 more at bats in '05 to equal his 2004 at bats, he would have likely eclipsed his career high since he would have been on a pace to walk
A June Swoon: Blalock's 2005 numbers would have been better if not for a bad month of June. Right in the middle of the season, Blalock went into some bad habits and hit just .253 in June, seeing his average drop from .291 coming into June to .277 going into July. From there, Blalock rebounded and wound up posting career highs in average (.279) and on-base percentage (.359). He also tailed off at the end of the season, finishing in a 1-for-17 (.059) slump that pulled his average down from .287 through August.
Kinda Partial To Southpaws: While Blalock hit an equal average of homeruns off righties and lefties in 2005 (1-per-46 at bats against righties and 1-per-44 at bats against lefties), his average against left-handers was .301, while he hit just .271 against right-handers. His strikeout numbers were also very close depending on whether he was facing a right-hander or left-hander. In fact, most of his stats - with the exception of his average - were pretty close against any kind of pitcher.
Can You Handle Pressure?: Actually, Blalock pretty much thrives off of pressure. Yes, he was 0-for-7 with bases loaded, but his other situational stats reflecting pressure were pretty good. With runners in scoring position, Blalock hit .309 and he upped that to .328 when there were runners in scoring position with two outs. With any runners on base, Blalock hit .292 on the season at Clearwater.
Getting Better With Leather: The Phillies slowly transitioned Blalock from a third baseman to an outfielder. The move didn't always go smoothly, but it has definitely picked up. As a part-time outfielder in 2003 and 2004, Blalock struggled at times, but nothing like he would struggle in 2004 when he played the outfield full-time. He finished the 2004 season with a disastrous .765 fielding percentage. During the off-season, Blalock worked feverishly on his defense and the work paid off. In 2005, Blalock became a solid outfielder with a .987 fielding percentage. He has a decent arm and shouldn't have problems playing defensively in the majors.
The Bottom Line: In general, Blalock is developing into a consistent hitter for the Phillies. Playing on a very weak team at Clearwater may have hurt his overall numbers. If he's in a better lineup, odds are that he'll develop into more of a run producer and if he had better hitters behind him, he may get better pitches to hit. The real test for most players comes when they make the jump to AA, which Blalock is slated to make in 2006. That will be a big part of the test.