HomeTrending MLB NewsStill Evolving as a Hitter, Boston’s Blaze Jordan Is Bashing Baseballs

Still Evolving as a Hitter, Boston’s Blaze Jordan Is Bashing Baseballs

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Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Blaze Jordan quietly put together one of the best seasons in the Red Sox minor league system this year. Overshadowed by higher profile prospects such as Roman Anthony, Marcelo Mayer, and Ceddanne Rafaela, the 20-year-old corner infielder slashed .296/.351/.481 with a 124 wRC+ and 18 home runs between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. Moreover, his 141 hits and 32 doubles were both tops among Boston farmhands. That he fanned in just 14.3% of his 525 plate appearances is also notable, although that does come with a caveat: His 7.6% walk rate was less than ideal.

Jordan’s profile coming into pro ball was that of a slugger. As our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen wrote after the Red Sox selected him in the third round of the 2020 draft out of Southaven, Mississippi’s DeSoto Central High School, “Jordan had some of the best power in the class.” That would be an understatement. The now 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-handed hitter won the High School Home Run Derby in Cleveland at the 2019 All-Star Game, and he was reportedly called “a young Bob Horner” by a scout who had seen him punish baseballs in a prep tournament.

That Jordan’s power output in pro ball — 36 dingers in 1,160 PAs — has been comparatively modest is at once concerning and a sign of age-appropriate developmental goals. Just shy of the legal drinking age, he doesn’t aspire to be an all-or-nothing basher.

“I like to classify myself as just a good overall hitter,” Jordan said following his mid-summer promotion to Portland. “I don’t really want to put myself in a category like ‘power hitter,’ or whatever it might be. Something I’ve really worked on, especially this season, is making a lot of contact. I do get out of my zone at times, but that comes with experience. It’s all about the process, and while I’m not where I want to be, I’m heading in the right direction.”

The youngster also feels like he’s heading in the right direction in terms of his physicality. Jordan told me that he’s gotten his body “in better shape than it was last year,” with one of the goals being to continue playing at both infield corners. Projected by many as a future first baseman, Jordan was stationed at that position 65 times this season, but he also manned third on 51 occasions.

Regardless of where he ends up defensively — ditto how he chooses to identify as a hitter — plus raw power will always be a calling card. Asked how far he has hit a baseball with a wood bat, he owned up to some moonshot distances.

“Pretty far,” admitted Jordan. “In rookie ball, I hit one about 460 feet. Last year, I hit one about 450. So yeah, I guess you could consider me a power hitter. But again, I don’t like looking at myself that way.”

Which brings us to his walk rate and the pitch selection issues that come with it. As Eric wrote in June when assigning him a 40 FV, Jordan’s plate discipline “dilutes his production in a meaningful way.” In order to take full advantage of plus pop, a hitter needs to attack what he can drive, and, until he gets to two strikes, spit on what he can’t.

Portland hitting coach Doug Clark highlighted that point when I told him toward the season’s end that Jordan’s strikeout rate was lower than I would have guessed.

“I didn’t know where it was going to be when he got here [in mid-July], but when I did see it, it was interesting,” said Clark. “You can usually connect the dots, right? When it’s not as high, a hitter is usually swinging pretty early in the count, and at times at pitches he can’t do damage on. You want to have the ability to work deep in counts and take your walks. Blaze is showing glimpses of doing that, but it’s not an easy task to ask a player to hold back his aggressiveness when that’s something he’s been doing for the majority of his career.

“What you want is a patient aggressiveness,” continued Clark, whose own professional career saw him get cups of coffee with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics from 2005-06. “It’s almost like you’re a sniper at the plate, as opposed to being an M16. There are times when you can do that, and there are times you can’t, especially when you’re in what I’d call the filet mignon part of a lineup.”

The meat of Portland’s lineup included the majority of Boston’s top prospects over the course of the season, one of whom ranks no. 1 in the system. With that in mind, I asked Clark about any similarities Jordan might share with Mayer, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft who is seven days older than his Sea Dogs teammate.

“They’re similar in that they’re going to put pressure on the pitcher,” said the hitting coach. “That pitcher is going to understand that if he makes a mistake the ball could be put in places where it’s going to hurt his ERA right off the bat. It’s not, ‘If I miss here, he’s going to hit a single,’ because both guys can impact a baseball. It’s a matter of how disciplined they can be, that any hitter can be, because you can’t just go up there and swing. You have to make the pitcher earn your swing.”

There are reasons to believe that Jordan will go on to do just that as he continues to mature. He already possesses the ability to handle high velocity and recognize spin — attributes he cited when we spoke this summer — and just as importantly, he knows that he needs to continue to get better in all aspects of the game. Count Clark among those standing firmly in his corner.

“He’s fearless,” said Clark. “It’s exciting to see him get to this level this early. It’s something the Red Sox have to take a lot of credit for — everybody who has worked with him at the lower levels — and the same goes for his support system. The grit and determination he has shown to get to this point is impressive.”

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