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Chuck Landon: Blair may be highest MU pick of all time

Jun. 06, 2013 @ 12:53 AM

Aaron Blair is a born gambler.

Would Marshall's ace starting pitcher hesitate to throw a curveball on a full-count to an opposing cleanup hitter? Nope. Here comes the deuce.

Would the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander use his heavy 96 mph fastball to get a slugger into a 1-and-2 hole and, then, buckle his knees with a swing-and-miss changeup? Yep. Good luck on staying back on that 83-85 mph change.

Would the highly regarded junior use the banned substance Adderall, which is prescribed for sufferers of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but is also popular with students cramming for final exams? Yep. He tested positive at a Major League Baseball pre-draft screening.

Yes, indeed, Blair likes to gamble.

But who can blame him?

After all, his hometown is Las Vegas, Nev.

Maybe that's why Blair took the biggest gamble imaginable by accepting a baseball scholarship to a college without a ballpark.

Talk about rolling the dice.

Well, guess what?

He threw a seven.

The payoff will come when Blair is selected during the first round or, perhaps, the early second round Thursday in the Major League Baseball draft.

"I think Aaron has a chance to go late first round," said Jeff Waggoner, Marshall's head baseball coach. "We haven't had one of those here. When you go in the first round there's a lot of money and there's a chance to get some Big League time."

Particularly for a Major League-sized hurler like Blair, who possesses three plus pitches -- the heavy 96 mph fastball, the changeup with late fading action and a 76-79 mph curveball that he improved this season.

"I talked to four or five teams on Tuesday and one general manager," said Waggoner. "It just depends on signability. The scouts will figure that out.

"There's talk of him going anywhere from the 15th to 40th pick. But that could fly either way."

Blair already has been drafted once. The Houston Astros chose him in the 21st round of the 2010 draft after his senior season at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas.

That's not too shabby, but he came to Marshall instead.

Add that to Blair's list of gambles.

But, again, he cashed the ticket by compiling a 5-5 record with a 2.85 earned run average and 84 strikeouts and only 36 walks in 82 innings, while earning 2013 first-team All-Conference USA honors.

"Arizona is really interested," said Waggoner of the Diamondbacks. "Kansas City and Baltimore are right in there, too. If any of them gets the opportunity to pick Aaron, he probably will go in the first round."

If not, Blair could fall to the second round. But he wouldn't last for long.

Expected to join Blair in the Major League Baseball draft is Marshall's Isaac Ballou. The athletic, left-handed hitting center fielder also was a first-team All-CUSA selection this season.

"Isaac has been turned in by three or four scouts," said Waggoner of the senior outfielder. "He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates (36th round) after his sophomore year. There are a lot of teams that like him.

"I think Aaron and Isaac will be our two draft picks this year. Isaac will go on Friday, but Aaron will be on Thursday."

That's not much of a gamble.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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