The Texas Rangers took 19-year-old outfielder Jabari Blash in the ninth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, but based on talent alone, he's worth much more than a ninth-round pick.
As a freshman at Miami Dade College this past season, Blash batted .364 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in just 99 at-bats. The number is made even more impressive by the fact that Blash had never played a full season of baseball before '09—and he didn't begin the season in the starting lineup.
Blash, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, features a plus arm, plus raw power, and above-average speed. Some scouts have compared his talent to that of White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye, although due to a lack of experience, Blash's skills are understandably raw.
The outfielder is said to be asking for a $500,000 bonus, and he has the leverage of returning to Miami Dade for another season and re-entering the draft in 2010. He is currently playing for the DeLand Suns of the Florida Collegiate Summer League. Blash is batting .272 with four doubles, one triple, and one home run. He has 12 walks and 28 strikeouts in 81 at-bats.
Lone Star Dugout spoke with Blash after the Rangers drafted him.
Jason Cole: First off, just tell me what your thoughts were on getting drafted by the Rangers.
Jabari Blash: I was excited to get drafted period. All the guys that I've talked to with the Rangers—they seemed to be a good team. They've got a good park and a good atmosphere. The scout had nothing but good things to say about the Rangers. He told me they would take care of me.
Cole: How much had you talked to the Rangers during your college season and leading up to the draft?
Blash: The area scout went to a lot of games. He wasn't one of the scouts that would keep pressing me and asking a lot of questions. He was around and they were there watching. My coach didn't play me a couple of games that the GM and crosschecker came. But there were a lot of scouts around at those games.
Cole: Did you get picked in the draft about where you were expecting to go?
Blash: Not really. I kind of had high hopes for myself. Going into the draft, I was expecting not to go past the third round. But the draft is unpredictable. The Rangers took a chance and hopefully we can work something out. I'm grateful for that.
Cole: Tell me about your game offensively. What's your approach at the plate like and what are you trying to do when you're up there?
Blash: First of all, I'm trying to get on base. But it depends on the pitcher. At the beginning of the season, I had a hard time staying back—staying on my back leg. I worked on that a lot. My approach at the plate—stay back, have quick hands, be quiet, and hit the ball solid and hard all the time. That's my goal at the plate.
Cole: Just from reading your stuff about your college season at Miami-Dade, you didn't open the year as a starter, did you?
Blash: No. There was a sophomore in right field already. But they gave me the chance and I proved to them that I was capable of starting and getting the job done. That's what I did.
Cole: How did you feel you played this year?
Blash: I think I did good. I know that I can do a lot better than what I did, just with more experience.
Cole: The Rangers drafted you as a right fielder. Is that where you played this past season?
Blash: Yeah, I played out there the whole year.
Cole: Have you played out there your whole life?
Blash: I played baseball when I was younger. I don't think that counts, but I stopped playing baseball and I started again in my junior year of high school. I played a little centerfield and some right field.
I'm a pretty good centerfielder—I'm quick and fast. But some other guys on the team were really fast. They stuck me in right and I've got a great arm, so it's a good fit.
Cole: You went to high school in the U.S. Virgin Islands. You mentioned playing in high school, so I assume your high school had a baseball team?
Blash: Yeah, but there are five high schools in the islands. We played seven games my senior year and out of those seven, I played five games. So to make a long story short, this was really my first actual real season in baseball.
Cole: How were you able to get noticed out there? You originally signed with Alcorn State last year. Did they come see you or did you have to reach out to them?
Blash: I came and did a workout, actually. A couple of schools were talking to me. One of the coaches at Dade got ahold of me before anyone else could and it was a great decision. It was a great fit.
Cole: How often were Major League scouts coming to see you play in the Virgin Islands?
Blash: Believe it or not, I was drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in 2007. I played in a Jupiter tournament. The World Wood Bat tournament in 2007. There were a lot of scouts there, and the White Sox saw me. The organization obviously liked me, so it worked out and they drafted me in the 29th round.
Cole: If you don't sign with the Rangers, are you heading back to Miami-Dade or have you signed with a four-year school?
Blash: My plan is to go back to Dade and do twice what I did this year.
Cole: Can you talk about the chances of you signing versus going back to college for another year?
Blash: Honestly, I would rather do baseball all day than baseball and school. It's a hassle when you have to work. I want to get out there and play. I need those at-bats. I know what I'm capable of and what will happen when I get those at-bats. I've got nowhere to go but up. I have a lot of room to improve.
But at the same time, I know that if I go back to Dade next year and I improve, I'll be good and I can get better and be twice the player I am now. So I would love to sign and go play with the Rangers tomorrow, but at the same time, I want to get what I think I deserve—or what we could meet at. I could just go back to school next year and maybe go a lot higher.
Q&A with Rangers 9th Round Pick Jabari Blash
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