How did patience turn Wake Forest shortstop Pat Blair into the Rays’ 12th round pick in this year’s draft? Well, he was patient enough to still appreciate being selected in the 12th round, but that’s not what we’re going for. He was patient enough with his career that he didn’t want to sign with the Astros last season after being their 24th round pick and return to Wake Forest for his senior season, so that’s kind of true. The major place, though, where Blair’s patience makes an impact is in the batter’s box as his plate discipline is a key facet of his game and makes his chances of making the major leagues quite a bit higher. Blair may not be the most explosive athlete, but he maximizes his abilities using things like patience and could be an interesting player for the Rays in the next few years as a utility player or just maybe a starting shortstop.
Blair is not the biggest player at 5’10”, 180 nor the strongest or the fastest. Blair shows just solid bat speed with little power at the plate and he’s never going to be considered much of an offensive threat. Yet despite that, pitchers have an awfully hard time getting him out. Blair has a smaller strike zone and knows it well, and you’ll rarely find him chasing pitches ever. He fouls off the pitcher’s pitches and doesn’t swing at the nasty breaking balls, leading to long counts and at-bats that just never seem to end. His plate discipline and pitch recognition help him draw walks even though pitchers do everything they can to throw him strikes, and that isn’t all. Blair’s swing may not stand out much, but he’s good at using his patience to find pitches to hit, something that is going to serve him well even as pitchers throw him more and more strikes as he moves up the professional ranks. He does strike out a little too much despite a nice ability to make contact as a product of working so many deep counts and Blair may end up as a player who does not hit for much average. But we know in baseball these days that batting average is far from everything. Blair has a chance to be a player that hits only .250 but manages a solid on-base percentage and some surprising power to the gaps to put his OPS around league average or not far below. Blair certainly isn’t your ideal hitter, but he gets the job done and what else can you ask for?
The rest of Blair’s game is much like his hitting. Blair’s speed is closer to average than plus, but he does an excellent job reading pitchers and could be a player who could steal 15 to 20 stolen bases at a high success rate moving forward. Defensively, Blair has solid range at shortstop and arm strength that might be a little sub-par, but he has worked hard to perfect his actions and become a good defender. And Blair ties his game together with excellent character, staying unfazed whenever he hits a rough patch and showing the leadership to help the team overcome whatever struggles they may have. Blair’s all-around game probably fits better as a utility player than a starter, but he’s the type of player every team needs to fill out their roster. He’s a max-effort player who makes every contribution he can to help the team win both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Sam Fuld was a 10th round pick by the Cubs back in 2004. In Pat Blair in the 12th round in 2013, the Rays may have found the infield version of Fuld. Blair trades some of Fuld’s defense for a little more hitting, but he is that same type of player with intangible value to the team who just makes things happen whenever he gets the chance to play. From a tools standpoint, Blair isn’t very impressive and may not have what it takes to become a major league player. But all the different ways he maximizes what he does have mean that you can never count him out, and only once we see him take the field will we truly understand everything he can do.