I am sure that the last three years have been anything but a “picnic” for Kyle Blanks.
It was only three short years ago that the then-23 year old Outfielder/First Baseman was considered by many to be one of the Padres’ brightest young stars in the aftermath of the 2009 season. In case you forgot, the power-hitting Blanks had just come off of a stellar debut season in which he hit .250, 10 Home Runs, and slugged 23 RBI’s during a 54-game stint.
Blanks entered the 2010 ready to build off of his impressive 2009 numbers, and he was widely expected to be San Diego’s most potent power threat for years to come. Sadly for Kyle, two devastating injuries basically made him a “non-factor” during what were supposedly thought to be his “prime” years as a professional. Tommy John surgery during the Summer of 2010 shelved Blanks for basically all of that season, and a majority of the 2011 campaign as well. Disaster however struck the Outfielder/First Baseman again early last year, and a torn left labrum limited Blanks to only 5 At-Bats during the 2012 season.
From a production standpoint, Blanks’ bum elbow and bum shoulder only limited him to the following over the last three seasons (2010-2012):
- 92 Games, 277 At-Bats, 35 Runs, 56 Hits, 13 Doubles, 10 Home Runs, 41 RBI’s, .202 BA, .294 OB Percentage, and a .372 SLG Percentage
To his credit though, the now-27 year old Outfielder/First Baseman has battled back once again, and appears to be on the verge of making yet another comeback from his most recent injury. During the Winter, Blanks stayed healthy and performed well in the Puerto Rican Winter League to the tune of a .286 Batting Average, 2 Home Runs, and 9 RBI’s. Riding high off of his success in Winter Ball, Blanks has taken his positive performance in Puerto Rico, and channeled it into a terrific showing so far this Spring in Arizona. Over his first 11 games, the Right-Handed hitting power-man has recorded a .478 Batting Average (11 for 23), 3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 5 RBI’s, and an impressive 5:2 Walk to Strikeout ratio.
I for one am happy to see a player like Blanks enjoying an injury-free road back to playing baseball at its highest level. Yet as great as it could potentially be to have him come back and perform well with the Friars in 2013, I nevertheless must ask the same two questions I did about Blanks before last season began:
- Will there be enough room for Blanks on San Diego’s roster in 2013?
- How available will playing-time be for Blanks if he is on the Padres’ roster?
As harsh as it might be, professional sports waits around for no one. If a player shows the signs of being perpetually injured and is unable to stay healthy, a franchise must find adequate depth to step in and perform in that player’s absence. Unfortunately for Blanks, the Padres have been busy over the last three offseasons adding Left Fielders and First Basemen to their roster.
In Left Field, as long as Carlos Quentin’s knees hold up, he is an effective Clean-Up and power hitter. The veteran is the undisputed starter at the position, and is a valuable part of San Diego’s lineup. In addition to Quentin, the versatile Alexi Amarista played Left Field at times for the Friars in 2012, and Logan Forsythe has begun to take reps at the position recently as well.
Much like the situation in Left Field, the Padres have a firmly entrenched starter at First Base, and adequate depth there too. Yonder Alonso is coming off of a solid Rookie campaign in which he hit .273 with 9 Home Runs, 39 Doubles, and 62 RBI’s. Alonso also did a decent job against Left-Handed Pitching last year (.261 in 153 At-Bats), so the idea of a consistent Lefty-Righty platoon situation with him and Blanks at First Base would not make too much sense.
Yet if the aforementioned competition in Left Field and at First Base weren’t enough for Blanks to deal with, he also must contend for playing time with two other veteran Outfielders/First Basemen already on the roster in the forms of Mark Kotsay and Jesus Guzman. Like Amarista, Guzman has proved to be a valuable and versatile player for San Diego over his three year career with the team. Jesus has started games at Third Base, First Base, Left Field, and Right Field, and has established himself a terrific Right-Handed bat for the Padres to turn to off the bench for Pinch-Hitting and spot-starting purposes (9 Home Runs and 48 RBI’s last year). The veteran Kotsay not only has worth to the team as a backup Outfielder/First Baseman and Pinch-Hitter (.271 (13 for 48) with 4 Doubles, 2 Home Runs, and 9 RBI’s), but an experienced team-leader for the young Padres to look towards for an example as well.
I for one will not say that Blanks has “zero chance” of making San Diego’s roster coming out of Spring Training. As long as he proves that he can stay healthy, can hit with consistency, and cut down on his Strikeout totals, he should find a place on a Friars team in need of some extra power in the middle of their lineup. What I cannot see however is Blanks receiving a large, or any extended amounts of playing time at the big league level if the players I alluded to before perform up to par, or stay healthy.
This is not to say that Blanks will not be in San Diego’s long-term plans if he stays healthy though. In fact, Kyle will not be a Free Agent until the 2016 season, so the Padres might decide to wait and bring him along slowly as he comes back from his most recent injury.
I understand that the chance exists for Blanks to gain more playing time through some stellar and productive performances. But on a team with a large amount of depth at the two positions he plays, Blanks’ chances to shine will be extremely limited if not non-existent once the regular season gets underway. I do know that I will be rooting for Blanks to make a successful comeback this Spring though. The former 42nd Round pick knows what it takes to face long odds, and I am sure that he knows how many guys he must fight for time with if he wants to contribute as early as this year.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference