Matt Blackham’s route to the New York Mets organization began in Utah, included a stop in Kansas, then continued in Tennessee.
A 29th-round pick in 2014 out of Middle Tennessee State, where he served as a reliever, Blackham now is 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA through five starts with the Brooklyn Cyclones this season. He has struck out a league-leading 40 batters in 29 1/3 innings and has a 0.99 WHIP, albeit while walking 11. The WHIP is narrowly behind teammate Tyler Badamo (0.98) for the New York-Penn League lead.
The 5-foot-11 Blackham’s fastball sits at 90-92 mph and tops out at 94 mph as a starter. He also throws a knuckle-curve and changeup.
Blackham, 22, attended high school in Gunnison, Utah, until his stepfather got a promotion before the right-hander’s senior year. Blackham’s family gave him the choice of completing high school in Utah while living with his older brother or going through his senior year in new surroundings. He chose to go with his parents and played his final year of high school ball in Olathe, Kansas.
“I wanted to be with my parents and moved out to Kansas with them,” Blackham said. “It actually was really weird, especially the first semester when you don’t know anyone. The first couple of weeks you’re alone at the lunch table or whatever. They treated me well and gave me the opportunity and that was a big start for me.”
From a baseball perspective, Blackham benefited from the fresh start. He had two arm surgeries early in high school after the growth plate in his elbow “popped out” during the second pitch of a game. The first procedure, which inserted the screw, cost him eight months. The second surgery, to remove the screw, cost him another few months, too.
“I didn’t really get to play much my freshman year. And my sophomore year, it was hard for me to play after having another surgery,” Blackham said. “It was difficult getting playing time because I was so far behind everyone else.”
Blackham played two years of junior college baseball before getting signed by Middle Tennessee State.
“That was one of my better offers,” he said. “I had a lot of D-II offers and a handful of small D-I schools -- mid-major D-Is.”
He picked up the knuckle-curve at a young age.
“When I was in Little League I wanted to learn how to throw a curveball and I asked my older brother. He was a catcher and he didn’t really know,” Blackham said. “He said that he heard it doesn’t hurt your arm as much as a normal slider or curveball at my age.”
Average: Ali Sanchez, GCL Mets, .366; Vinny Siena, Brooklyn, .339; Patrick Mazeika, Kingsport, .326; Kevin Kaczmarski, Kingsport, .326; Jeff McNeil, St. Lucie, .320; Alex Castellanos, Vegas, .314; T.J. Rivera, Vegas, .311; Gavin Cecchini, Binghamton, .303; Michael Conforto, Binghamton, .299.
Homers: Alex Castellanos, Vegas, 16; Travis Taijeron, Vegas, 15; Josh Rodriguez, Binghamton, 14; Michael Conforto, Binghamton, 12.
RBIs: Josh Rodriguez, Binghamton, 57; Alex Castellanos, Vegas, 56; Dominic Smith, St. Lucie, 54; Michael Conforto, Binghamton, 53; Brandon Allen, Vegas, 49.
Steals: Wilfredo Tovar, Vegas, 24; Champ Stuart, St. Lucie, 21; Patrick Biondi, Savannah, 19; Jonathan Johnson, Savannah, 18; Jeff McNeil, St. Lucie, 14.
ERA: Steven Matz, Vegas, 2.19; Casey Meisner, St. Lucie, 2.21; Ronald Guedez, GCL Mets, 2.25; Michael Fulmer, Binghamton, 2.30; Merandy Gonzalez, Kingsport, 2.36; Martires Arias, Savannah, 2.67; Matt Blackham, Brooklyn, 2.76; Gaby Almonte, Brooklyn, 2.78; Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 2.80; Audry German, Kingsport, 2.97.
Wins: Casey Meisner, St. Lucie, 10; Robert Gsellman, Binghamton, 10; Scarlyn Reyes, Savannah, 9; Darin Gorski, Vegas, 8.
Saves: Jon Velasquez, Binghamton, 18; Paul Sewald, Binghamton, 15; Akeel Morris, Binghamton, 13; Jimmy Duff, Savannah, 10; David Roseboom, St. Lucie, 8.
Strikeouts: Steven Matz, Vegas, 94; John Gant, Binghamton, 88; Casey Meisner, St. Lucie, 88; Martires Arias, Savannah, 87; Seth Lugo, Binghamton, 81.
Outfielder Darrell Ceciliani has been out since July 9 with Las Vegas because of a sinus infection.
Paul Sewald earned a silver medal with Team USA in the Pan Am Games in Toronto after his squad lost in the finals, 7-6, to Canada in 10 innings. Sewald went 0-1 but allowed only one run -- unearned -- in the tournament. Fellow Mets farmhand Yeixon Ruiz hit .292 with one homer and two RBIs in 24 at-bats with the Dominican Republic. Nabil Crismatt had a 5.40 ERA for Colombia, which went winless in six games.
Michael Conforto, a call-up consideration to the Mets if Michael Cuddyer lands on the disabled list, is the reigning Eastern League Player of the Week. Since making his Double-A debut on May 30, Conforto is hitting .317 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 164 Eastern League at-bats. He has a .401 on-base percentage with the B-Mets.
After parts of two seasons playing in Asia, Zach Lutz is hitting .353 (6-for-17) with three RBIs and two walks through five games since rejoining Vegas. Lutz’s arrival coincides with Alex Castellanos being allowed to depart for Japan. The Mets received compensation, likely in the $100,000 to $150,000 range, to allow Castellanos to depart.
Jonathan Galvez made his organization debut with Binghamton on Tuesday. Galvez, a 24-year-old utility player from the Dominican Republic, hit .237 with 12 RBIs in 139 at-bats with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees organization to begin the season. He then played 12 games for Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League before getting signed by the Mets.
Lefty batters are hitting only .098 (5-for-51) against Dario Alvarez with Binghamton this season. Overall, Eastern League opponents are 0-for-their-last-27 against Alvarez.
Since getting released by the Mets from Binghamton a week ago, Dustin Lawley has signed with the Boston Red Sox and been assigned to Class A Salem, Aderlin Rodriguez has signed with the Seattle Mariners and been assigned to Double-A Jackson and Eudy Pina has signed with the Miami Marlins and been assigned to Double-A Jacksonville.
Eighth-round pick Patrick Mazeika is off to a quick start to his professional career after signing out of Stetson, the same program that produced Jacob deGrom. Mazeika, 21, is hitting .326 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 89 at-bats with Kingsport. He has split time between catcher, first base and designated hitter.
Right-hander Matt Bowman has turned his season around with Las Vegas. He tossed a two-hit shutout on Tuesday night against Fresno. Bowman, a Princeton product, had an 8.69 ERA in April, 5.47 ERA in May and 3.99 ERA in June. He has a 3.21 ERA so far in July through five starts. He has tossed two complete games this month.