If the 2011 June Amatuer Draft could have been summed up in a word, that word would be: Pitching. Five of the first seven picks were used to select pitchers and a total of 19 of them were drafted in the first round. Names like Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer and Dylan Bundy quickly flew off the board on draft night and have since become widely regarded as future staff anchors.
Enter Clayton Blackburn.
Clayton Blackburn was drafted in the 16th round of the 2011 draft out of Edmond Santa Fe High School in Oklahoma. The 6’3 220 lb right-hander works with a four pitch mix – the best of which is a low-90′s sinking fastball that he can push up to 94-95 mph. He also has an above average mix of breaking pitches and offspeed offerings. He can throw any pitch in his arsenal for strikes which has scouts believing that they all project to be above average options at the next level. In addition to his strong arm, his pitches play up because of his excellent command.
Blackburn started his professional career in 2011 with the Giants Arizona Rookie League affiliate. By signing quickly the then 18-year old was able to throw 33.1 innings over 12 games and compose a 1.08 ERA with 30 strikeouts and only 3 walks. The sample size was small and he flew under most people’s radar entering the 2012 season. He was left off of Baseball America’s, MLB.com’s and prospect guru John Sickles’ top ten prospect lists for the San Francisco Giants organization prior to this season.
Now that we’re over half-way through 2012 it’s safe to say that he is no longer flying under the radar. Blackburn, 19, was assigned to Class-A Augusta of the South Atlantic League for the 2012 season and he has made hitters look silly ever since. He leads all starting pitchers in the SAL with a SO/BB rate of 7.57 and has only allowed 14 walks in 96.1 innings or work. To go along with his excellent command he has shown top notch strikeout stuff compiling 106 K’s good for a SO/9 ratio of 9.9. Blackburn has more than held his own against older competition and all signs point to him continuing this trend as he progresses.
Blackburn has the ceiling of a #2 starter at the big league level and if he continues to show the type of control that we have all seen from him in 2012 he could move quickly through the Giants system. A system which is devoid of top tier pitching since top prospect Zach Wheeler was dealt to the Mets. However as a 19-year old he still has quite a bit to prove before we will see him in the majors, including logging some innings in the upper minors.
Blackburn will do his best to test the Giants patience though if he continues to show the excellent command of his solid repertoire. Along with his fellow 19-year old Class-A rotation mate, Kyle Crick, he gives Giants fan’s something to look forward to once the Lincecum era inevitably ends. The San Francisco front office deserves credit for finding such a strong talent in the 16th round but the ultimate reward will be seeing Blackburn toe the rubber at AT&T park by the middle of this decade.
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