Paul Blackburn: The second best athletics trading chip?

Most of the time off-season, the talk about athletics has focused on where the players are Matt OlsonAnd the Matt ChapmanAnd the Chris BassettAnd the Shawn Mind And the Frankie Montas It will head as soon as the trade market recovers. We got answers for four of those five, with only Montas still tearing up the season. This is expected to be temporary, as Montas emerges as one of the most prominent business targets in the summer market. Arguably the best arm available this summer, Montas will dominate the headlines for the next seven weeks. However, while Montas is the most well-known Auckland trading target, he’s not the only beginner who will get the trading interest in him.

Fans will forgive if Paul Blackburn Not someone who was on their radar — or even if Blackburn was completely unfamiliar. The 28-year-old right-hander entered the 2022 season with a 5.74 ERA in 138 career rounds at the MLB level. He’s already had a big serve in the league for two years, but a lot of that has been injury time list. Blackburn lost time in 2018 with a strain in the forearm and then with a tendon problem in his elbow (lateral epicondylitis). During his two years of service, he appeared in only 30 matches – 27 of them started.

However, Blackburn has come out of the gate strong so far in 2022. His 66 1/3 innings already represent the highest level of his career in the major leagues, although he has crossed 140 frames in one season multiple times when combining Triple A and work in the Major league, so workload management shouldn’t be a huge concern. So far, in 12 starts, previous draft #56 (Cubs, 2012) is £2.31. Blackburn not only misses many bats, as evidenced by a subpar strike rate of 17.9%, but he also issued walking strides to only 5.7% of his opponents and spur them to ground with an excellent clip of 51.3%.

There is certainly some amount of good fortune in play for Blackburn, who currently benefits from an average of 0.253 on balls in play, an 80.5% strand rate and a tiny 6.0% Homer-to-flyball ratio. Even with some expected regression in these markers, ERA alternatives such as FIP (3.13), xFIP (3.64) and SIERA (3.91) all feel there is some legitimacy to the idea that Blackburn has delivered such a capable mid-turn start so far.

Statcast largely agrees that Blackburn gets credit for an “expected” 3.36 based on its lack of free passes and the generally poor quality of contact made by its opponents. Hitters posted an average exit speed of 87.4 mph against Blackburn (league average 88.8 mph), and only 3.6% (seven total) of balls struck against him were deemed “barrels” by the Statcast – less than half the average League (7.7%).

It is tempting to suppose that Auckland’s cavernous home garden played an important role in suppressing the Blackburn era, perhaps to some extent, but it is not so clearly reflected in his home/way divisions. Blackburn’s “worst” start to the season (four runs each) has come at the Colosseum, in fact, practicing 4.39 ERAs at home for a nearly clean 0.91 ERA in 39 2/3 runs on the road this season. Oakland’s roomy proportions help any bowler on the hill from time to time, but Blackburn isn’t the case we often see of a bowler excelling on the runway and getting hits hard on the road regularly.

Blackburn doesn’t have strong stuff by any means, but it’s at least worth noting that they’ve made some speed gains and changed stadium use so far in 2022, which certainly seems to have improved their results. The right-hand diver sat at 90.4 mph from 2017-20 before climbing to an average of 91 mph in 2021, and is now hitting 91.9 mph so far in 2022.

Blackburn is also tossing the curve at a rate of 17.8% – the highest in his career – and getting impressive results. He’s thrown 172 curves this season (which is already the highest of his career) and finished 44 games on the board with the pitch; Opponents have only three hits (all doubles) and 19 hits (43.2%) in 44 board appearances. FanGraphs running values ​​give Blackburn 5th most valuable in MLB this year (minimum 50 slash rounds), only behind Kyle WrightAnd the Shane McClanahanAnd the Corbin Burns And the Framber Valdez. Of the bowlers in that subgroup who actually throw a curve ball regularly, Blackburn was the most valued on a strict per-court basis.

There is an easy case that can be made in order for an A to simply hang on a Blackburn even if (or when) they trade the Montas. While both are manageable after the current season, Montas is a free agent after the 2023 campaign and will see his $5 million salary approach $10 million next year. His trade value won’t be higher than ever for the next few weeks. With that said, Blackburn is controlled for another three years after the current campaign. A might well decide that this is enough value to hang on to – especially if the offers aren’t that strong given the right-winger’s lack of track record ahead of the 2022 season.

At the same time, money was the general driving force behind Oakland’s off-season break-up, stripping the payroll to just under $50 million — the second lowest in Major League Baseball before only the Orioles were rebuilt. A’s doesn’t have a single guaranteed contract on the books for 2023, so payroll should Less worrisome than ever, but Blackburn will reach arbitration for the first time this winter and see his salary jump from currently $710,000 to somewhere north of $2 million. Oakland will have to spend at least some money on a few players, and Blackburn appears to be a solid and affordable option to step into the rotation for at least the next two seasons. There is also a modicum of “earned money” appeal to the idea of ​​a potentially decent payout for a novice bowler who canceled concessions in February 2021 and was barely on the big league’s radar ahead of the 2022 season.

First-class owners aren’t likely to shop aggressively at Blackburn, but the manageable supply is the most sought-after supplier on the trade deadline, so teams will at least inquire about the availability of the right hand. And in the midst of their most aggressive step back in years, they’re not likely to take a player off the table unless they can dominate him for another five or six years. This will likely lead to some conversations about Blackburn and possibly about the left Cole Irvine Also – although Irvine is manageable for an extra year on Blackburn and has some questionable minor signs to go along with the stark divisions between home and road. Blackburn, of course, isn’t the ace his primeval era currently suggests, but rival clubs need roles capable of rounding the middle or end of their turn as well, and he certainly looks set to be able to fill that role in the future. future.

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