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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Blake Sabol Showing Early Looks Of New Approach

When looking at the roster for the Altoona Curve, there are no shortage of highly touted players to watch. In fact, five of the top 10 and 11 overall from the top 30 prospect list here at Pirates Prosects are beginning the year in Double-A.

So, if you’re not a top prospect, it could be easy to get overlooked, even if you are playing well.

While Blake Sabol may never be a top prospect, and while we are still dealing with a small sample size early in the season, he has made the kind of adjustments to his game that you would like to see from a player making the jump up to Double-A.

The catcher from USC, and former seventh round pick back in 2019, spent last year splitting time between Bradenton and Greensboro, putting up some impressive power numbers (13 home runs, 30 extra-base hits overall), but also struck out 29.1% of the time.

Making consistent contact was going to be the key as he made the jump to Altoona, and that’s exactly what he has been able to do so far this season.

Only Connor Scott has a higher batting average on the Curve this season, and Sabol has cut back on the strikeouts, with a 19.5 K%. He’s putting way more balls into play, and even if the power hasn’t completely come yet (just three extra-base hits), they have come more recently. His triple and two home runs have all come in his last five games played, and he has been one of their better run producers.

This series against New Hampshire, Sabol finished 5-for-14 (.357) with a triple, home run and four RBIs while striking out just two times.

That’s following up his week against Richmond where he went 8-for-22 (.363) that included his first home run of the season.

Another thing that has stuck out in the early goings for Sabol has been his ability to spread the ball around the field. While he has never been an extreme pull hitter, he has certainly favored right field when putting balls into play.

That’s changed this year, as he is hitting to the opposite field at a higher rate than he has throughout his professional career.

If you want to compare small sample sizes, Sabol’s opposite field hitting is up nearly 15% than his brief stint in Bradenton last year, and it’s right around 5% up from his time with Greensboro.

One of his more impressive displays of going the other way was this at-bat against the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

This was a good pitch sequence, throwing back-to-back breaking balls on each side of the plate, before trying to tuck a fastball inside for a called strike three. He followed that up with a breaking ball low and away, but Sabol kept his hands back and was able to slap the ball the other way for a base hit.

While catcher probably isn’t his final stop — he has only played behind the plate and DH this year — Sabol’s play has forced more of an even split of the playing time at the position that was probably expected going into the season.

The Pirates were high on Carter Bins when they got him in the Tyler Anderson trade, but his struggles offensively along with Sabol’s strong start has seen the two nearly split the time behind the plate evenly through 15 games (eight for Bins, seven for Sabol).

While you would like to see some of the power continue to come — that way we can tell just how much was influenced by playing in Greensboro — Sabol is starting to show signs of being more of a complete hitter than original thought.

Sabol is an interesting name to watch, especially if you are looking outside the top prospects for a breakout guy. The power will have to continue to return, while keeping the same approach to really raise his stock but regardless Sabol has been a key in the Curve’s offensive surge over the last week.


Williams: What If There Were No Starting Pitchers?

Prospect Roundtable: Which Pitching Prospects Benefit From a Long-Reliever Approach?

Yerry De Los Santos thrives in pressure situations

Highlights from the Pirates Hitters on the Extended Spring Training Roster

Mike Burrows: Worked Past Control Issues On Way To First Win

Blake Sabol Showing Early Looks Of New Approach

Hudson Head Off to a Good Start, But Needs Swing Consistency to Maintain Numbers

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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