Blackburn was the Giants’ 16th round pick (507th overall) in the 2011 MLB entry draft out of Edmond Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla. The Giants were able to pry the 6-foot-3 righty away from a commitment to play college ball at the University of Oklahoma. He chose to commit to the Giants early, signing his contract in late-June, as opposed to the mid-August signing deadline.
Blackburn greatly impressed during his professional debut with the AZL Giants in 2011. In 12 games -- six starts -- he posted a 1.08 ERA and a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He allowed only 19 baserunners in 33 1/3 innings, and showed a strong ability to keep the ball in the park, allowing only two home runs and posting a 2.58-to-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
Blackburn has started the 2012 season with the Augusta Greenjackets of the single-A South Atlantic League. In his first start, he allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, no walks and recording six strikeouts.
According to reports from Keith Law of ESPN, Blackburn tops out at 95 MPH on his fastball, but often sits in the low-90s. Generally Blackburn isn’t an overpowering pitcher, instead relying on superb command to notch strikeouts.
Blackburn has good sink on his fastball and does well at keeping it low in the zone, resulting in a steady supply of ground balls. Additionally, he has a good feel for both his changeup and curve, with both pitches projecting to be above-average at the major league level.
Blackburn has impressed with his early performance in the pro ranks. According to Baseball America’s October post-draft report card, Blackburn was rated the third-best high school prospect to be drafted. He also ranked as the best late-round pick at-or-below slot bonuses.
Blackburn is at the stage in his development where anything can happen.
He relieved and started in the Arizona Rookie League, although the Giants currently view him as a starter. He is starting games in Augusta.
While the Giants have a great track record of developing pitchers, anything can happen with teenage pitchers in professional baseball. Blackburn could seemingly become a middle-of-the-rotation stalwart, or flame out in the minor leagues. Time will tell. If all goes well with his development, he is still about three years away from making it to the major leagues.
We see his skillset comparable to an in-his-prime Derek Lowe. While Blackburn is not as big as Lowe, he has a similar style: he is not overpowering, but is able to induce a lot of ground balls while also posting a good strikeout-to-walk ratio.