The 2019 MLB draft is less than a month away and prospect hounds are already salivating at the thought of whom their teams will select from this year’s class. Youth is all the rage right now in professional baseball as teams eschew veteran free-agent signings in favor of locking up young players early, making a splash on the international free agent market, or positioning themselves for a higher pick in the amateur draft. Many of the players selected in June will immediately be anointed as a ‘savior’ for that organization, the player who makes past struggles go away and finally delivers that elusive World Series crown. The pressure is real, both for the player and the team who will call their name this summer, something Vanderbilt right fielder J.J. Bleday will understand soon enough.
J.J. Bleday 2019 MLB Draft Profile
The 6’3” 205 lb. Bleday, currently a junior, immediately won a starting role upon arrival in Nashville. He performed well as a freshman, though he really hit his stride in his second campaign, posting a ridiculous .368/.494/.511 line and leading the Commodores in hitting that season despite missing several weeks due to injury. He has continued to be an offensive force for Vanderbilt this season, ramping up the power to launch an NCAA-leading 23 home runs at this point in the season, a major factor behind the helium his draft prospects have acquired.
Strengths of J.J. Bleday
HR No. 23‼️
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 5, 2019
Bleday is a lefty masher, a middle of the order type bat. The record-breaking power he has showcased this season speaks for itself, garnering a 55 grade per MLB Pipeline. Though he previously hit only six home runs combined in NCAA play before this season, he did hit five home runs in the Cape Cod League after last season, bettering his power production in that short run despite using a wooden bat.
Though the power is legitimate, Bleday is no three outcome hitter. He has a polished approach at the dish, walking more than he struck out every year except for this season (40 BB’s, 42 K’s). Defensively, his plus arm (60 grade per MLB Pipeline) stands out as another plus for teams looking for more than just a dangerous bat in their outfield. Before college, Bleday dazzled on the Perfect Game tournament circuit as a lefty who could push 90 on the mound, a trait that has translated well to the outfield.
Weaknesses of J.J. Bleday
While his strong arm adds a dangerous element to his defensive game, his lack of speed (40 grade per MLB Pipeline) is the one major weakness to his game. Bleday has attempted six steals in his Vanderbilt career, posting a 50% success rate on the base paths. This lack of speed could affect his ability to play outfield in MLB, though that arm would be lethal if placed in left field.
There are some similarities between Bleday and Detroit Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Both have a plus arm (albeit from different sides) and above average Hit/Power tools. Bleday is more patient than Castellanos, though both have the ability to mitigate strikeouts at the plate. Castellanos’s 2018 production stands out as a good baseline for a fully developed Bleday, though he should offer a higher walk rate and the potential to flirt with 30 home runs at his peak.
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