Blade Comes to Boston

The Mets’ fourth best prospect is coming to Boston in exchange for Doug Mientkiewicz and cash. Ian Bladergroen becomes our best first base prospect, and the 21-year old will most likely go to High Single-A Wilmington, with potential to see Portland before the end of the year. His Estimated Time of Arrival in the majors is 2007, which just so happens to be a year after Kevin Millar’s contract is up. If Bladergroen hits the tar out of the ball this season, he could get a shot at the job next year. The more realistic thing, though, is if we resign Kevin Millar to another 2-year deal (or another first baseman) then hand the job (if he still deserves it) to Bladergroen for 2008.
You can find his statistics on the table to the left. He played for the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2003 and the Capital City Bombers (yes, the affiliation we just replaced Sarasota with) in 2004.

IAN BLADERGROEN’S STATS
Now that ‘Blade’ becomes the Sox’s top first-base prospect, a lot of eyes are turned towards him to see how he will respond in the Red Sox system. The Atlanta native is too early to be projectible (for example, check out his OBP discrepancy) but he’s still a good one!
Level AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI

The left-hander’s name is pronounced “blader-grown” and according to SoxProspects.com is a “left-handed aggressive hitting first baseman with through-the-roof power potential. … Missed half of the 2004 season after undergoing wrist surgery in July. Projects well if he gets beyond his injury.”
Bladergroen has been compared to John Olerud (albeit with more power) and he was named the Organizational Player of the Year for that level in 2003. John Sickels covered Ian Bladergroen in one of his ‘Down on the Farm’ specials, in which he said:

Bladergroen is hitting .337/.397/.598 for the Capital City Bombers in the Sally League. I receive questions about him twice a day it seems, so I figured I should answer. He is a left-handed hitting first baseman/DH with big-time power potential from the left side. His plate discipline is only adequate (25 walks, 52 strikeouts in 261 at-bats), and there are some concerns about his ability to make contact and work the count effectively against more advanced pitching. He hit .285/.354/.416 last year in the New York-Penn League, so his ’04 numbers represent significant improvement.

The plate disclipline question is too early to answer, because as you can see, he had a OBP differential of ~0.70 in 2003 and ~0.50 in 2004, so it still will take a while to see where he ends up. I think he’ll settle in at 0.60, which is my base between someone without a good eye and someone with a good eye.
Bladergroen was listed as the eighth best hitting prospect in the National League and the projection that is said is quite optimistic.

Bladergroen had his 2004 season cut in half last year when he required wrist surgery in early July. Up until that point, he was having a strong season, hitting .342 with 13 home runs and 74 RBI over just 72 games at Single-A Capital City and before the injury, most had expected he would soon be moving up to a more competitive level. Bladergroen projects as a .280s type who will average 20-30 home runs a year when he is fully established (Baseball Notebook).

Hmm … a .280 hitter with a .340 OBP and 25 home-runs? That’s pretty darn good, so let’s all cross our fingers and hope for that.
Continuing our look at Blade, here’s an except from an article by John Manuel:

Don’t forget about Bladergroen just because a wrist injury (ligament damage) ended his season in July. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound slugger was doing it all in a .342-13-74 season for low Class A Capital City. “He was aggressive and would chase a bit like a young slugger,” said Charleston (W.Va.) manager Ken Joyce, “but he had a real nice swing and legitimate big-time power. His swing path put the bat in the (strike) zone for a long time.”

Before Bladergroen was injured, he was on pace to lead the league in batting average and slugging percentage, and was the Mets’ top first base prospect. While the issue with his wrist is intriguing, if he returns to full power, Bladergroen could anchor first for us for a long time.
The article linked in ‘issue with his wrist’ mentions that it takes about a year to fully regain power potential, so next year we could be set up for a dissapointing season with Bladergroen, at least power-wise. If he can realize he needs his wrist to heal and can focus on just hitting the ball, I won’t be too dissapointed if he turns in a powerless season as long as he turns in a season roughly with a .300/.360 OBP.
Heres is his scouting report from BaseballHQ:

Strengths: Bat speed/moderate power/contact ability. Strength
Weaknesses: Strike zone judgment. Speed/agility
Comments: Blessed with good size, strength, and bat speed, hitting for power comes easy for him. He doesn’t have good enough plate discipline to hit for a high BA, but is doing a better job at making contact. His defense at 1B will be average at best. A torn ligament in his left wrist, suffered in July, put his season to a screeching halt.
MLB Debut: 2007

People are really taking his lack of strike zone judgement seriously, and disregarding 2003. Let’s wait and see what 2005 brings in terms of plate disclipline. Every source I have looked at says Bladergroen’s defense is either ‘average’ or ‘excellent’, so at least we know he is not ‘terrible’.
Bladergroen did an interview with NYFansOnly.com and there were a few nuggets that I really liked, such as one about his personality, when he was asked what the team was like last year.
“I love everyone on that team. That team was just great. The team camaraderie was just awesome. Everyone got along and appreciated the opportunity to play. There was no money on that team, I mean high draft picks so there were no prima donnas.”
“I had a torn ligament in my left wrist and they had to repair the cartilage. It was really a freak injury. I flied out to left field and when I was running back to the duguout, I couldn’t get the batting glove off of my hand. The next day I had surgery and I had a cast on my arm up past my elbow. I took a few swings at the Instructs and it was still very tender so I didn’t pick up a bat again until two weeks ago and it was still a little tender.”
And last but not least:
“I guess I’d have to say my passion to win. I am more of a team guy than an “I” guy. I am more about team chemistry and a clubhouse guy than a guy that cares about his stats. Kevin Millar is a good friend of the family and I’d say he and I are similiar in that regard. I am there to keep the clubhouse upbeat and pick guys up when they are down. It’s just so much more fun to win than it is losing.”
Now, think about it. He has the potential to hit 20-30 homeruns … will hit around .280 … is slow on the basepaths … average (at least) defender … and has an upbeat personality. Boy, that sounds a lot like Kevin Millar. A younger version of Millar? I’d take it.
All in all, this looks like a very good trade. We free up a surplus, and we get a future first baseman, and all we give up in addition to that are possible cash considerations. If the Mets decline Mientkiewicz’s 2005 option, the Red Sox will pay the buyout.
This pretty much ensures that David McCarty will have a backup position at first base which is sort of a shame because it will take at-bats away from Kevin Youkilis, who is being thought of as a backup third and first baseman. A lot can still change between April 3rd, but the team has finally started taking shape except for a few position battles, one of which Adam Stern is a part of.