With their third round selection (100th overall) in the 2016 draft, the New York Mets selected left-handed hitting third baseman Blake Tiberi out of Louisville, making him the fourth straight college player drafted by the team (Justin Dunn from Boston College, Anthony Kay from UConn, Peter Alonso from University of Florida).
Tiberi, (turning 22 on February 16) had a monster year for Louisville during his final season in 2016, slashing .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 last season.
Upon signing with the Mets on June 21, the Mets assigned their third-round pick to the Brooklyn Cyclones, where Tiberi played in 56 games, slashing .235/.316/.316, with ten extra-base hits, 24 RBI, and 21 runs scored. He played primarily third base while with Brooklyn, ceding the position only when Jose Reyes was rehabbing with the team in late June and early August.
Tiberi excelled with runners in scoring position while with Brooklyn, in 47 at-bats he posted a .319/.410/.426 line, with 21 RBI, and more walks (10), than strikeouts (7).
I had the privilege of speaking with Blake on Sunday afternoon, where he’s already down in Port St. Lucie, gearing up for his first spring training and full professional year with the Mets organization.
MMN – First off, thanks for taking some time to talk with me. What was the draft like for you? Were you with family and friends when you heard you were selected by the Mets in the third round?
Blake – Well it’s kind of crazy actually, because at Louisville we had a couple of guys that we knew were going to be first day guys (selected in the first and second rounds) so we had kind of a little party at our baseball facility, and eventually we had four guys drafted which was awesome.
Then talking to my agent that night we kind of knew we were in the 3-5 round range. We had Super Regional still and we had practice the next day, we had the Saturday, Sunday, Monday schedule, so I was actually at practice when I found out. And the draft started again so I mean, I was kind of out of the loop for the most part, so I just told my agent ‘okay you guys are in charge and I trust you.
About forty minutes into practice we were taking BP and my trainer came over and he said hey you just got picked up by the Mets, 100th overall. It was a whirlwind, I didn’t really know what was going on and I was so happy and overwhelmed and all my teammates came up all hugging me, it was a pretty incredible experience.
MMN – Did you have any inclination prior to the draft that the Mets were interested or potentially going to pick you in that spot?
Blake – Absolutely not, no. I was talking to my agent… but I wasn’t really sure who was going to draft me. I just really knew I was in the 3-5 range or there were about five teams my agent was heavily talking to and he said the Mets called and they worked out a good deal so I was very happy it worked out that way.
MMN – What was the process like for you of going from playing in college, to the draft, and then to pro ball in Brooklyn so quickly? What kind of adjustments does one make to make it as seamless as possible?
Blake – I think I adjusted pretty well. You know, going away to school and living on my own helped a lot just because I was able to get comfortable of living away from home, which a lot of high school guys or some guys that go to school at home, they don’t really have that advantage, so living away was easy for me. And then like anything else you go to a higher level of baseball, you have to adjust to the talent level.
People make that adjustment in high school to college, and then college to pro ball, so like anything, the more you work at it and the more you see it the more adjusted you become. So it was a little bit of a struggle at first but once I calmed down, relaxed and just focused on the little things it was something that… not easy, but I was a lot more acclimated to.
MMN – With the amount of success you and your teammates had with Louisville in college, did that help prepare you for professional baseball and where you are now in your career?
Blake – Yeah absolutely, I mean I give a lot of credit to my coach at school, I mean he 100% prepared me for professional baseball with the consistent routine, the challenges, all of our weight room workouts, the practices, and just creating a competitive atmosphere in everything we did. It not only helped myself and my team at Louisville, but all the draft guys to have success at the next level.
MMN – Growing up, who were some of your favorite players, and do you have any you model your game after today?
Blake – Growing up I loved Barry Bonds, he’s a left-handed hitter like me and big home run guy. I’m not a really a home run hitter but I just love that he went up there hacking and I just loved the way he took his at-bats. And there were other guys, I loved growing up watching Ken Griffey (Jr.) because I’m right across the river in Cincy and I listened to Reds’ games and he was a fun guy to watch.
I can go on and on, but those were the predominant guys I loved to watch. If I had to say I modeled my game after anyone right now, it probably would be Daniel Murphy or Matt Carpenter, two other left-handed bats, third base maybe second type of positions that may not put up the 30 home runs but they hit the ball to all fields, a lot of gap-to-gap, a lot of doubles, (they’re) tough outs, and (they) put the ball in play.
MMN – You played primarily third base with Louisville, were you always at the hot corner growing up?
Blake – Growing up I was kind of all over the place, I was actually a catcher a majority of my growing up. And I think when I was fourteen I moved to third base when one of my coaches was an infielder at Ohio State and he kind of said you’ve got the build for a corner position, so I stepped to third. I came to like the position a lot, and then went off to school and I just worked on my craft every day and just did everything I could to be the best third baseman I could.
MMN – If you had to give a quick scouting report on yourself, what would you say your strengths and weaknesses are?
Blake – I don’t really know, I don’t really like to talk about myself to be honest. I’d say the one thing about me, talking to some of the guys at school, they say I’m kind of a tough strikeout, I mean I foul a lot of tough pitches off late, and I try to not give away at-bats, I try to move the ball as much as possible. I have the abilities, I can also hit a backside six hole so I feel like I have the abilities to hit the ball to all fields and still working, right now off-season’s really good, been working on driving the ball center, left-center a lot better.
Those are probably the main offensive things, and I’d say defensively I think I’ve got good above average arm strength, I feel like I’ve come a long way defensively from high school to college and college to professional. And every year I’m getting better and better and growing as a player.
MMN – And when you signed with the Mets and reported to Brooklyn, what was your experience like there, did you get to explore NYC much? Was this your first time to New York?
Blake – Yeah, the first probably three weeks was rough for me and I was struggling at the plate, I took a couple, probably ten days off just in baseball and just from the season to give my body a little rest. I kind of took it light a little bit, just from my team not pitching for a while and my mechanics were a little out of whack and then finally the second half of the season (I) got into a really good routine, started barreling the ball consistently, so I finished really strong which I was happy with. And yeah that was my first time in the big city which, I loved it.
I went to Manhattan a couple of times, my family was able to come up to just explore the city a couple of times which was a blast. But I had a real good time.
MMN – I know you got a chance to play with Jose Reyes for a few games when the Mets re-signed him in late June, and then again when he was rehabbing with Brooklyn in August, what was it like to play with Jose and did you get a chance to pick his brain much?
Blake – He was at third whenever he came (to Brooklyn) so whenever he came I DHed, so I’d be out there taking ground balls (pre-game) with and kind of pick his brain on some stuff and picked up some good tips. I wasn’t really asking him how to get better, it was more of what’s his thought process in defense, and offensively I just watched him; the way he went about his at-bats, the way he did all the little things. It was cool to have a big leaguer come in, you know, you just watch the way they go about their business, so you can pick up a lot of stuff from that.
MMN – And finally, what’s the offseason been like for you? Can you give the readers a little insight into what a normal training day is like for you?
Blake – All off-season’s been great for me, I pretty much lived in the weight room, I was there for probably two hours a day for four days a week, tried to just crush my body and get in the best shape as possible so I’m ready for spring training and the full 140 game season. I changed my diet a lot, so I went on a strict diet, very healthy which I feel like- mix that with the heavy lifting just benefited me and mentally to put myself in the best chance to have success for spring training and this upcoming season. I’m upset the offseason is over but it’s also it’s very exciting that baseball is right around the corner.
MMN – Well we’re definitely excited for baseball to gear back up, and really appreciate your time today Blake, best of luck to you this season.
Blake – Awesome man, yeah no problem I appreciate you reaching out to me, thank you Mathew have a good one.