Aaron Blair Returns to the Arizona Diamondbacks
Even though the Arizona Diamondbacks appear set on pitching for Spring Training 2020, they did sign a former first-round pick of theirs. On February 12, they signed Aaron Blair to a minor league contract.
Former Top Prospect
Blair was a supplemental first-round pick in 2013. He ranked among baseball’s 100 best prospects both in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 off seasons. He moved through the Diamondbacks farm system quickly, but his career fizzled when he reached the Majors.
Traded to Atlanta
Blair was included in the unpopular trade that sent former number one pick Dansby Swanson and Diamondback fan favorite Ender Inciarte to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier in December of 2015.
Atlanta invited him to Spring Training 2016 as a non-roster invitee, but he failed to make the big-league club. On April 23 he made his major league debut. Overall, that season he made 15 starts and had a 7.59 ERA and gave up 14 home runs in only 70 innings. For the 2017 season, he spent it with Triple-A Gwinnett and only appeared in one major league game.
Released by Atlanta
In 2018 he was injured with initial reports of a jammed shoulder, but it turned out to be a torn capsule in his pitching shoulder. Surgery was needed, a procedure that wound up sidelining him for not only the 2018 season, but the entire 2019 campaign as well. The Braves released him when they needed to fill the 40-man roster spot due to all their injuries.
Challenges to Get Back
Although he’s a former two-time Diamondbacks Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Blair faces an uphill battle in pitching his way back to the big leagues. The 27-year-old will likely have to compete for a spot in the Diamondbacks organization, and that will most likely be with Triple-A Reno. Blair is 30 pounds lighter than he was on his first go-around with the Diamondbacks. The question will be whether he can be a starter again or look to be in the bullpen as a set-up pitcher.
Before his injury, Blair’s fastball was in the low 90s with good sinking action. That speed, if he still has it, will only help his cause. His change-up generated many groundball outs in his Diamondbacks minor league career. It was always in the 82-85 mph range with an excellent fade and movement down in the zone. Again, if he hasn’t lost these pitches, he’s got a good foundation.
He has not pitched in almost two years so he will need to work on his self-assurance and mound presence. These are significant to getting back to his old form. He also needs to see how he reacts to pitching in a live game and continue to build up the strength in his pitching arm.
We know that injuries happen during the season and this year it looks like the Diamondbacks have plenty of pitching options. But if Blair, while pitching in the minors, shows the front office that he is back, they will find a spot for him on the big league roster.
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