Last weekend I profiled Jordan Diaz and Lucas Erceg, citing alphabetical order for the choice of players. But I forgot that I was going to include JJ Bleday, who isn’t Ricky Ledee, so today we back up the alphabet truck to the “B” section and then continue on our merry way through a number of young A’s players who may — or may not — be worthy of keeping.
Bleday is steeped in pedigree, having been drafted as the #4 overall pick of the Miami Marlins in 2019. It’s also true that given the lost 2020 MiLB season, Bleday is relatively young even for a 25 year old who will turn 26 next month.
However, the Eyeball Scout’s take on Bleday is that he is actually lacking in most of the key skills needed to succeed at the big league level.
Bleday has one thing going for him and that is the patience and knowledge of the strike zone fans wish he could pass along to Jordan Diaz, Tyler Soderstrom, and at times Shea Langeliers.
But as important as it is to “control the strike zone,” Bleday doesn’t do a lot with that skill besides draw a lot of walks. He hits a lot of routine bouncers to the right side and some long, but not that long, fly balls.
His career batting line is now .183/.296/.335 and it comes with a startlingly low BABIP of .222 that has persisted now across parts of 2 seasons.
Defensively, I feel like Bleday gets overrated because he moves somewhat gracefully and has a strong, accurate throwing arm. The reality, though, is that Bleday moves very slowly and does not get consistently good reads off the bat. He strikes me as an average LFer and a below average CFer, which matches what the metrics see.
The outfielder he reminds me of, defensively, is Stephen Piscotty, who was very accomplished with the balls he could get to but couldn’t get to very many, and who had a good arm that weakened over time — as did Josh Reddick’s, and as Bleday’s probably will as he gets later into his 20s.
Bleday has power but doesn’t hit many homeruns, knows the strike zone but doesn’t hit many strikes “where they ain’t,” moves gracefully but not quickly. What he does well is to draw a lot of walks and that’s really about it.
When it comes to pure stuff, the A’s have the makings of a good starting rotation. It begins with Mason Miller and Joe Boyle, then moves to Luis Medina and Ken Waldichuk. The question is: who’s stuff will play and who’s won’t?
Medina arrived with huge questions about his ability to throw strikes, but like Boyle he has put many of these worries to rest. He is not “all over the place all the time” like he was in the minors when he walked 2 batters every 3 innings.
That being said, while not being constantly wild, in 2023 Medina did ultimately issue quite a few free passes: 4.68/9IP. Fastball command came and went, while the slider emerged as a strong weapon. The curve was a good swing-and-miss pitch, the changeup mercurial.
What I keep coming back to, with Medina, is that despite throwing hard (96 MPH average, sometimes topping out as high as 99 MPH), his fastball is simply not a good swing-and-miss pitch for whatever reason. The fastball gets hit, as if it was coming in with average velocity, producing a .388 wOBA derived from a .272 BA and a lofty .494 SLG.
When you have a pitcher whose fastball, regardless of velo, gets hit hard, and that pitcher does not pound the strike zone enough to limit walks, you have a dangerous combination.
I don’t know why Medina’s fastball gets hits so much and I can’t really find anything in the underlying metrics to explain it. Is it spin rate? I don’t think so. Is it location? Maybe. Is the ball easy to pick up out of his hand? Perhaps. I don’t really know, but I know it’s a huge problem that forces Medina to rely overly on his secondary pitches and to get batters to chase. And the problems he faces as a SP are not ones likely to disappear as a RP.
I think Medina is worth a long look, and I like his competitiveness and confidence. But what is my ultimately guess for how it all shakes down in the end? I hope I’m wrong.
Don’t worry: there is wheat ahead! But on a 112 loss team you have to know there are going to sometimes be back to back chaffs. Plus for all we know these two will be All-Stars in 2025 because baseball.
Time for your thoughts on these two. How do you see their careers playing out the next few years?