Bradley Blalock plans to show why the Red Sox drafted him
Selected out of high school in the 2019 MLB Draft, Boston Red Sox pitching prospect Bradley Blalock was put in the difficult position of weighing his options between forgoing his commitment to attending Kennesaw State University, where had had a standing offer to play college baseball as a two-way athlete or to make the jump right to professional baseball. The young right-hander chose to go to school for about a month but had a change of heart when he realized how advantageous the opportunity to start pro ball early could be for his career, and eventually signed with the Red Sox to join the system.
Selected in the 32nd round out of Grayson High School in Georgia, Blalock joined a small list of Grayson High alumni that were able to get the opportunity to play professionally. Upon signing, he joined current Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Austin Meadows and current Tigers farmhand Parker Meadows (Austin’s brother) as some notable athletes to become affiliates in professional baseball.
The right-hander played all over the diamond and spent significant time between the mound and as a position player. As he explained to me, Blalock had no idea where he wanted to play until his senior year in high school. In the years leading up to his final season with the Grayson Rams, he played right field and first base before ultimately seeing a majority of his time at shortstop when he was not on the mound.
Before his transition to professional ball, Blalock spoke highly of his father as a pillar to his desire to get better at baseball, along with his travel baseball team coaches.
"“My dad coached me until I was about 14 years old. Then I joined the Team Elite travel baseball team and there were four coaches who really helped me get better. Shane Hopper, Brad Boris, Jimmy Crane, and Martin Mellis,” Blalock said."
The right-hander has been working out at Full Count Baseball in the wake of the minor league season being canceled, a facility he has been affiliated with since he was a freshman in high school.
"“Eric Alonso and Brian Holmes run the facility and push me to be better, they can see I want to improve which motivates me,” he mentioned."
He would spend most of his days there conditioning since the March shutdown, arriving at 9 a.m and leaving around 1:00 p.m. after live batting practice.
Since COVID-19 protocols restrict Blalock from being able to work out at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, he talks with his strength coach and pitching coaches over the phone to keep them updated.
"“They have a monthly test where you have to fill out the numbers in the weight room. When I’m throwing off the mound, I’ll send them videos of me throwing for them to evaluate,” he noted."
All of the off-time has helped Blalock work on his physical stature. He put on some weight by adding muscle to get stronger, going from about 185 pounds when he was drafted to around 206 pounds.
Notably, Blalock spoke about the development of his pitching repertoire.
"“Coming into quarantine, I only had two pitches, a fastball, and a curveball. I had a changeup but didn’t use it much, I worked on that a bunch and started to build confidence in it,” explained Blalock. “I started throwing a slider as well. I’ve had that since high school but didn’t bring it into pro ball with me. I realized I needed a secondary pitch that I could throw consistently over the strike zone and I know I can do that with my slider.”"
Blalock mentioned that he had an excellent feel for his slider going into fall instructs, but ultimately lost feel for it.
"“Luckily, I was able to regain control of the pitch again. We have great pitching guys like Shawn Haviland and Chris Mears who were able to work on it with me. I found my groove for it again and actually came out of instructs throwing the slider better than I came in with,” said Blalock."
In addition to a fastball that sits in the low 90’s and a curveball topping around 82 MPH, Blalock’s slider tops out at 86 MPH with an average velocity of 84 MPH. His changeup averages around 86 MPH as well. He was able to experiment with his new pitches during the fall instructs, throwing it to fellow Sox prospects with solid results.
The 20-year-old was asked if he felt like he was going to turn heads coming into instructs after putting in months of work to improve.
"“I didn’t really expect it, but I knew I had improved. I wanted to go down there and show them that they got me at the right place,” he said."
Overall, the lack of a full minor league season allowed Blalock to focus on himself and work to fill out his frame from a physical standpoint. Working on his secondary pitches appear to have done him well, as he feels more confident in throwing them at a professional level.
The 2019 pick is eager to get back to work on the mound should the 2021 minor league season go according to plan.