Detroit Tigers: A look at new prospect Nolan Blackwood
By Andy Patton
The Detroit Tigers acquired their first of two players to be named later from the A’s for Mike Fiers. Here’s a look at RHP Nolan Blackwood.
Detroit Tigers fans can finally begin to analyze the early August trade which sent right-hander Mike Fiers to the Oakland A’s in exchange for two players to be named later. The Tigers apparently had a list of players they were allowed to pick from, and they have made their first selection: Right-handed reliever Nolan Blackwood will be heading to Detroit.
Blackwood is a non-traditional sidearm pitcher. His fastball gets up into the 91-93 mile per hour range, as his six-foot-five frame allows him to get velocity that is rare for a pitcher with his arm slot.
That allows Blackwood to generate a ton of soft contact and ground balls, as his heater also features a ton of late drop. He will never be a high strikeout pitcher, which likely removes him from future consideration as a closer, but his fastball is paired with an average slider and a changeup. Both post solid results because of his unique delivery, but ultimately he will need one of them to develop into more of a plus-pitch if he wants to reach his ceiling as a Steve Cishek style late-inning reliever.
Blackwood has spent all of 2018 at Double-A Midland, where he was named a Texas League All-Star. He is sporting a 4.08 ERA and a 8.15 K/9 on the year, with a stellar 62.5% ground ball rate and a 3.51 FIP.
Ultimately, Blackwood is a future middle reliever with the potential to serve the Tigers in a late-inning role. He is just 23, so he may need another year or two in the minors before he is ready for the show. However, his advanced velocity from his arm angle makes him a prospect worth keeping an eye on. He was ranked as Oakland’s No. 30 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and was No. 21 on Fangraphs’ list prior to the season.
Ultimately, I think Blackwood would fall just short of making our midseason top 30 prospects list. However, his intriguing blend of velocity, deception and command make him a very likely candidate to be a big part of Detroit’s bullpen, possibly as soon as 2019.
The Detroit Tigers will get one more piece from the A’s in exchange for Fiers. Depending what that is, this could end up being a solid deal for Al Avila and company as the team looks toward the future.