One of the knocks on the Arizona Diamondbacks in recent years has been the lack of top-flight pitching prospects making a contribution to the Major League club. The trades of Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, though with the former having underwent Tommy John surgery last year and the latter having been inconsistent, have chipped away at the pipeline. The struggles of Archie Bradley have been well-chronicled. However, there is one guy that is ready to contribute to the Snakes and in 2015 he was named the D-backs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Let’s take a look at right-handed pitcher Aaron Blair.
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How he came to the organization: The 23-year old Blair was first drafted by the Houston Astros in the 21st round of the 2010 Draft. Instead, he ended up attending Marshall University where he became one of the most decorated players in program history. He was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2011 as he led the Herd with a 2.72 ERA. As a sophomore, Blair finished fourth in the conference with 82 strikeouts and surrendered only three home runs in 83 2/3 innings. He was named to the C-USA First Team in 2013 during his Junior season as well as its Pitcher of the Week twice. Blair was named to the USA preseason and Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list. He was the highest-ever Marshall draft selection when the D-backs took him with the 36th overall pick after his Junior year.
Minor League career: Blair pitched at two Single A levels immediately after signing with the organization, making 11 starts for Hillsboro and South Bend, compiling a 3.14 ERA in 48 innings. Blair made three different stops in 2014, improving upon each promotion. He made 19 starts for two A ball teams in South Bend and Visalia, throwing a combined 107 2/3 innings. Blair finished his season at Double A Mobile, impressing with a 4-1 record and a 1.94 ERA in eight starts. He pitched 46 1/3 innings for the Bay Bears, allowing only 30 hits and 16 walks while striking out 46. He split 2015 with Mobile and Triple A Reno, going 13-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 160 1/3 innings. Outside of his initial start with the Aces, Blair was phenomenal in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, going 7-2 with an ERA of 3.62.
What’s next? The next stop for Blair should be the Majors. There isn’t anything left for him to prove at the Minor League level. Unfortunately for him, it is not a lock that he breaks camp with the D-backs. Although guys like Jeremy Hellickson and Rubby De La Rosa do not provide the upside that Blair possesses, they are more established Major League pitchers. Management could opt for more experienced arms as the team has their sights on a playoff berth. He also has the potential of fighting with Bradley for a rotation spot. However, I feel the only way he does not make the rotation in 2016 is if he has a terrible Spring Training. Barring injury, I don’t see it happening. Aaron Blair will make the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation on Opening Day.