I began writing an article with the idea of looking at how Perry Minasian had changed the farm system, but then I saw a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I am talking about Werner Blakely, a left-handed infielder the Angels selected in the 4th round of the 2020 MLB Draft. At 20 years old he’s been taking it to the California League, hitting .319/.450/.532 for the Inland Empire 66ers, which equates to a 166 wRC+! He’s doing all that while maintaining almost double the BB% as well as an average K% according to Doug Otto’s minor league benchmark article. While I was drawn in by the numbers, the film was just as good. The first thing you notice with Blakely is his tall lanky athletic frame. At 6’3” 185 lbs. there is some bulking up that could lead to more power in the future.
Blakely in the Box
Blakely has a great idea for the strike zone for a guy in Single-A. He rarely expands, tracks breaking balls well (although he does struggle to make contact with them) and is constantly looking for a pitch to drive. The swing is excellent as well. Blakely’s swing resembles current Angel Mike Trout. I know many great prospects get comped to Mike Trout (most recently Bobby Witt, Jr.), but the swing is incredibly similar from the left side. Blakely stands tall in the box with a very slight bend in his back leg, starts his hands at helmet level and as the pitcher winds, he coils up a bit, plants his front foot forward and swings a short swing with a downward tilt in his bat. Just like Trout, he tends to struggle to connect against middle-in high fastballs. When Blakely does connect it tends to be hard and loud. I would love to see what the Statcast numbers on him would be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he led the California League in hard hit%. He has shown a willingness to go the other way as he tends to hit fly balls to center-left. Most of his pull side connections have been on the ground. I think as he progresses there will be more power to all fields in the air.
Single-A Inland Empire walks it off for the second game in a row!
Tonight it’s Werner Blakely with a walkoff double! pic.twitter.com/SAxYPaDacU
— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) April 21, 2022
On the Bases and in the Field
On the bases, he has plenty of speed and has shown some craftiness too. Blakely has shown he’s capable of hustling down the line and preventing a double play. He was 6 for 6 in stolen bases and even took home on a strikeout when the catch had to throw to first. His fielding is the biggest question as he doesn’t have a solid position despite being as athletic as he is, and he’s been inaccurate on some throws. He’s DH’d a majority of this short season, and over the last 2 seasons had 20 errors in 44 games playing 2B, SS, and 3B.
Blakely needs to improve timing on making contact with breaking balls and off-speed pitches, as many Single-A hitters do. During the brief moments where a pitcher did throw them near the strike zone, it was clear he had a tough time making contact. This will likely improve as he moves up and sees these pitches on the regular. As a runner at upper levels, he needs to show he can continue to take bases and maintain his creativity as Single-A is notorious for its free-running environment. Finally, his biggest hurdle is to lock down a position, which many project him as a third baseman. Blakely needs to trust his arm and work on accuracy to stay in the infield.
Blakely is one of those guys that just stands out, his tools and athleticism are loud. He’s just missing a position. The coaches just need one day to move him from hitting 6th to exclusively 2-4. Blakley is currently only rostered in 1% of Fantrax leagues but should be rostered in far more as he will likely be a top 5 Angels prospect on every site come time for the next rankings.
Prospects1500 Angels correspondent. Angels fan since he was 6, Andrew has been engrossed with baseball and the minor leagues since 2011. Participates in several fantasy leagues. Enjoyer of ancient history, video games, and memes. Don’t ask him to watch a show, you’ll almost never get him to watch one, especially not during the baseball season. Software Tester for the Navy thru ISPA Technology. Lives in Panama City Beach, FL with his dog Max. Follow on Twitter at @A_Rhodes77.
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