Blake Tiberi was selected by the Mets in the third round (100th overall) of the 2016 MLB draft out of Louisville andwas given a $500,000 signing bonus.
After being redshirted his first year at Louisville, and playing sparingly in second season, Blake broke out during his third and final season with the team. He slashed .340/.387/.553 with 10 home runs (tied for 2nd on team), 51 RBI (2nd), 18 doubles (2nd), and 47 runs scored in 244 at-bats. Tiberi was a third-team All-ACC selection that year.
Tiberi was assigned to Brooklyn with the Cyclones where he hit .235/.316/.316 with 10 extra base hits and a BB/K ratio of 22/32 in 56 games with the team in 2016. Back in February of last year, prior to the start of the 2017 season, MMN and MMO writer Mathew Brownstein interviewed Blake as he was approaching his first full spring training and pending assignment to a full season league with the Columbia Fireflies.
Unfortunately, Blake was only able to play in five games for the team before being shut down with an injury and ultimately having Tommy John Surgery on May, 3. Since then Blake has been winding down his full rehab process and is expected to be fully cleared once he checks back in with Mets next prior and will look to start back his career and long-term goal of one day being a major leaguer.
Over the past year, Blake has been working out not only with the Mets in St. Lucie but also back home in Kentucky, where he spent of the past year taking classes again back at Louisville.
Blake was nice enough to take the time to speak with this writer prior to his pending trip to Port St. Lucie to meet with the medical and training staff to talk about the time away from baseball, long term goals and planning for the year ahead.
MMN: First of all, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me today Blake. Can you please tell me about your experiences through college and into being drafted by the Mets in 2016?
Tiberi: Sure, thank you for having me. Coming into college I wasn’t highly recruited. In fact I was redshirted and sat out first year. I then sat a lot my 2nd year with the team, but then took off junior year. throughout this time I always motivated myself to prove to everyone that I belonged. And in Louisville, was able to play for three straight years with a championship caliber team. The redshirt gave me extra eligibility. So I really wasn’t having a tough time or stressful process going into the draft. Being redshirted was turned out to be the best thing for me. I didn’t put pressure on myself that year to be drafted because I knew i could just come back again. When I found out I got drafted, it was such a cool experience to share with my team. Definitely one of the coolest moments of my life.
MMN: How did draft day go for you? How soon did you know the Mets were going to draft you?
Tiberi: Going into the draft, speaking with my agent, we thought it was either going to be Oakland or Baltimore who each had me high on their list. Then Mets literally came out of nowhere and took me with the 100th pick. Number 100. That number will always stick with me forever.
MMN: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Tiberi: I see myself as a dirtbag type, a grinder, a Kevin Youkilis type player.
MMN: Does any coach stand out as one that helped you through that first year?
Tiberi: Fonzy (Edgardo Alfonzo) was the bench coach that year in Brooklyn and was great for me. Huge for my development. Did really well for me defensively. I worked hard in second half especially defensively with Fonzy.
MMN: Then later comes the elbow issues and Tommy John Surgery, as a position player, what was that like for you?
Tiberi: It was shocking for me. Since turning pro I later found out I was playing with a partial tear likely for a few years without knowing it until I received that MRI. I mean I’ve known about playing with some stiffness, tightness and tendinitis in the past, but I had know idea it was that bad. I did pitch in high school, but again I just had no idea. It was going to be my first full season with the organization. I was so excited about the opportunity to prove myself that first full season. But after talking it over with my agent and the Mets front office, we decided on surgery. Kind of like I was being redshirted again.
MMN: What has the rehab process been like for you?
Tiberi: I think the rehab process has gone pretty smooth. Once I was out of my brace, I was off and running. My offseason began this past November, training about 3-4 days a week. I honestly feel like this is some of the best I’ve ever felt. I feel like in the best shape of my life since taking that time off. I’ve been doing the training, light weights, band work and later a throwing program throughout this current offseason. I’m excited to get back on the field. I want to see how all this work and progress will translate out there.
MMN: You were drafted as a third baseman. Does that remain your primary position? Have the Mets approached you about any other positions to play?
Tiberi: Third base has always been my primary position. I was told I would have been there every day in Columbia last year. So this year I’m mentally preparing myself to play third base.
MMN: Is there anything you are preparing to work on this year coming? Things are looking to improve upon this year?
Tiberi: As far as improvements, like any hitter we live in the cage. It’s all about my swing. I want to make it the most consistent I can. I want to drive it to all fields with power, with ultimate goal being simply to get on base. Last year I worked on pitch recognition to draw more walks. I didn’t work much in College or in Brooklyn. But it started to improve when I played those 5 games in Columbia (4 BBs in 5 games). Goal is to find more pitches to allow me to drive the ball.
MMN: Do you feel any added pressure to show power because you play in the hot corner of third base?
Tiberi: Honestly, I’m not too worried. I believe the power will come with age. I’m traditionally a gap to gap doubles guy. I’m working on my lower half strength this year. I’ve talked to a bunch of people who said just to hit and put barrel to ball. So I’m not putting pressure on myself to put up big power numbers. I’m trying to find a way to get the job done first and foremost.
MMN: You mentioned Kevin Youkilis earlier as a guy you’ve thought about in style of playing the game. Are there any other players who you also admire in the league right now?
Tiberi: I try to be smooth with my power. I love to watch Robinson Cano. That’s the type of swing I want. Smooth, solid, and consistent.
MMN: What kind of goals have you set for yourself for this year?
Tiberi: I honestly don’t really set a lot of goals for myself. #1 goal is to stay healthy. A lot of my goals are situational and in-game type of goals I set for myself. The goal is to try to put the ball in play, be the toughest guy in the lineup. Line drive, bleeder. Just put the ball in play. I want to make my defensive plays this year, be a good teammate, and represent the organization well. I’m planning on reporting to camp early this year, to start my routine and get going.
MMN: What’s it like being in the Mete organization? You mentioned Edgardo Alfonzo as a big help to your development. Are there other coaches you can single out as well who have helped you thus far?
Tiberi: Tim Teufel was awesome for me in spring last year on defense. Really cool, laid back, taught me so much. I credit him as well for my improved defense. Bobby Floyd, and Ryan Ellis the short season hitting coordinator swing coach.
MMN: Are there any players on the Mets you admire for their game?
Tiberi: I really enjoy watching Michael Conforto, specifically because of his swing.
MMN: Overall, what is like to be a professional baseball player? And what are you goals in baseball?
Tiberi: It’s really cool being a pro baseball player. Not many people get to say that. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything. I’d love to say I’ll hit .400 with 30 homers and get a September call up. I see myself as a big leaguer. I wont stop until I make it there.
MMN: Thank you so much for the your time Blake. Have a great season. I hope to see you this spring.
Tiberi: Thank you for having me for this. Anytime.