Every Friday, we’ll be looking back at a player who was at one point on MLB Pipeline’s list of top Cardinals prospects, but for some reason or another never made it to the major leagues. This week, we profile a first-rounder who failed to even remotely live up to his hype as a pro.
Ranked as the Cardinals’ #5 prospect in 2011, #12 in 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals have developed a strong reputation in recent years for drafting and developing college starting pitchers. As any baseball fan (or sports fan, really) knows, though, the draft is far from a flawless activity, and the Cardinals have guessed incorrectly on the upside of college pitchers before. One such case was Seth Blair, who the Cardinals took with their compensatory first-rounder (46th overall) in the 2010 draft.
Blair didn’t pitch at all after signing on July 30, 2010, and his professional debut with Low-A Quad Cities didn’t come until April of the next year. That put him behind the eight ball a bit, as he was already 22 years old by that point. Over 21 starts for Quad Cities, Blair went 6-3 with a 5.29 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, and .259 opponent batting average while striking out 70 and walking 62 in 81 2/3 innings. Blair spent nearly the entire month of August on the disabled list, and when Quad Cities made the postseason, Blair was sent home for a violation of team rules.
Blair missed nearly all of the 2012 season as he had surgery to remove a tumor on his throwing hand. When he returned in August, he did get moved a level up to High-A Palm Beach, but he struggled once again. In five starts, Blair posted a 1-3 record, 5.40 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, and .273 opponent average while striking out 12 and walking 14 in 16 2/3 innings.
More from Arch Authority
- St. Louis Cardinals: Randal Grichuk to begin Double-A rehab stint
- John Brebbia deserves a shot as the St. Louis Cardinals’ closer
- St. Louis Cardinals place Randal Grichuk on DL, recall José Martínez
- St. Louis Cardinals release RHP Corey Baker from organization
- St. Louis Cardinals activate Kolten Wong and Kevin Siegrist from DL, option Luke Weaver and Alex Mejia to Triple-A
For 2013, Blair was promoted to Double-A Springfield (by this point, it should be clear that the Cardinals were taking a sink-or-swim approach to Blair’s development, rather than being patient and leaving him at a particular level for as long as it took him to master it). While his numbers were still bad, it’s worth noting that this was his best minor-league season. Over 24 appearances (22 starts and two relief appearances), Blair had a 5.07 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. Though he had a career-high .298 opponent batting average, he compromised by posting a walk rate that was by far the lowest of his career, walking 48 hitters while striking out 117 in 129 2/3 innings.
Blair was sent back to Springfield to begin 2014, and after posting a 5.86 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and .303 opponent average through the first two months of the season, Blair was moved to the bullpen. He held hitters to a .176 average through his first four relief appearances, and he was promoted to Triple-A Memphis on June 23. While he held hitters to a .217 average in 5 2/3 innings of relief at Memphis, Blair walked seven batters and allowed eight runs (four earned) over that period. He was demoted back to Springfield on July 18, and he’d post a 7.19 ERA in 13 2/3 innings of relief the rest of the way. After beginning 2015 on Springfield’s disabled list, Blair was released on April 30.
Blair hasn’t pitched for any team since being released by the Cardinals last spring, and one would have to figure that his professional baseball career is over. Seeing as the Cardinals have released Blair and their second-rounder from that draft, Jordan Swagerty, while trading their two other first-rounders, Zack Cox and Tyrell Jenkins, they’re lucky that some of their later picks ended up reaching the big leagues. Guys like Sam Tuivailala, Greg Garcia, and Tyler Lyons have prevented the 2010 draft from being considered a complete and abject failure.