The Turtle Returns. I haven't been around much, but it's draft season, so if you can put up with me, I'll be honored to offer draft coverage before, during, and after the event. Since the Draft is a mere 16 days away, I'll try to cram as much information as I can into the next couple of weeks. The Reds possess four of the first 104 selections, including Nos. 27, 38, 67, and 104. This offers a prime opportunity to restock a middle-of-the-pack farm system. We'll begin our look at potential Reds draft picks with Marshall right-handed pitcher Aaron Blair.
Why Blair? Well, I went to Marshall so I get to pick. I've also seen Blair more than any other top-level pitcher and he might be the fastest-rising hurler in the draft class, having begun the year as a fourth-rounder and pitched himself into possibly the back of the first round. Blair, a 6-foot-5, 220 pound junior, throws his fastball 90-92 m.p.h. and hits 95. Blair (21) holds his velocity deep into games. His plus change is a swing-and-miss offering. Blair flings an inconsistent curve and slider, but both have potential to be average. His low three-quarters arm slot might be better suited to the slider. Blair finished the season 5-5 with a 2.85 earned run average for a team that finished 20-34. The native of Las Vegas allowed just 59 hits in 82 innings and struck out 84 with 36 walks. Foes batted .198. Blair allowed just four home runs in his last 165 innings.
A negative is that Blair uncorked 11 wild pitches. Blair's most impressive performances this season came against Big 12 co-leader West Virginia and No. 19 Houston. In an 8-0 victory over the Mountaineers, Blair struck out 11 in six innings. Against the Cougars, Blair whiffed 11 in eight innings of a 4-0 triumph. Blair's final start, a 13-0 loss to No. 20 Rice, wasn't a thing of beauty as he allowed six earned runs in three innings. A 21st-round draft pick by the Astros out of high school, Blair features a long, loose arm action. Scouts adore his bulldog mentality and outstanding makeup. He features solid command, mixes his pitches well and isn't afraid to throw any of his four pitches in any count.
Blair's ERA was 3.98 as a sophomore and 2.72 as a freshman. Blair's rise toward the first round began last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he went 6-0 with a 1.17 ERA against outstanding competition. Blair, a marketing major, won two games in the playoffs. He struck out 60 in 51 innnings.
Frankie Piliere and John Sickels have pegged Blair as a late first-round selection. Keith Law has him in the supplemental round. Baseball America has Blair going no later than the second round. Blair comes from a baseball family. His dad played at UNLV and his brother played at Cal State-Northridge.