Entering the 2010 regular season, Kyle Blanks was thought to be an up and coming player for the Padres. Blanks slugged 10 Home Runs and accumulated 22 RBI’s in only 148 At Bats in 2009, and his performance allowed hm to enter 2010 as San Diego’s starting Left Fielder. Unfortunately for Blanks, his performance dipped in 2010 to the tune of: .157 BA, 3 Home Runs, and 15 RBI’s. Then to make matters worse, Blanks had to undergo elbow surgery which caused him to miss the rest of 2010 and rehab most of 2011.
Starting fresh in 2012, Blanks will be a very intriguing player to watch over the next month or so, because he is in a way “without a position.” Therefore, it should be interesting to see where Bud Black and the rest of the Padres’ staff plans to play him. Thus, the focus of my post today will center around Kyle Blanks and the possible ways he can help the Padres this upcoming season.
So how can/does Blanks fit in and help the Padres during 2012? Well, there are two likely spots for him on the diamond and another on the bench:
Blanks will be vying for the 4th Outfielder spot and the top backup job in Left Field with Chris Denorfia over the next couple of months. Blanks was thought to be getting a shot to start in Left in 2012 after his decent finish to the 2011 season. However, San Diego’s acquisition of Carlos Quentin essentially solved that positional mystery, and Quentin barring injury should be the Padres’ starting Left Fielder this season.
Blanks could also see some time in Right Field as well in 2012, but there should be some stiff competition at that spot as well. As I alluded to a couple of weeks ago, Will Venable will be getting the first crack at seizing the Right Field spot in 2012. This is a make-or-break year for Venable, and he will likely be doing any and all things possible to nail the position down. Furthermore, utility man deluxe Jesus Guzman could also see some time in Right Field just to get his bat in the lineup.
While newcomer Yonder Alonso should receive every opportunity imaginable to win the starting First Base job, Blanks still should see some action at the position in 2012. Yet just like in Right Field, he will be facing a glut of competition with backups Mark Kotsay and Jesus Guzman.
Probably the best thing Blanks has going for him is the fact that First Base is indeed his natural position. That being said, he could come in at a moment’s notice and provide some help if injuries or poor play occur, or Guzman is needed elsewhere on the diamond.
When Interleague Play begins this season, Blanks could see some At Bats as the Padres’ Designated Hitter as well. As much of a N.L. guy as I am, and as much as I despise the very notion of the DH, in a way I wish the Padres were in the A.L. this season. I mean, it couldn’t hurt to give a power guy like Blanks and a consistent hitter like Guzman chances to contribute offensively each and every day. Regardless of my waffling, if Blanks does indeed make the Big League club he will be a factor in Interleague Play. He might even be able to give Quentin and Alonso nights off and let them DH as well.
I’m rooting for Blanks to do well this Spring and prove his naysayers wrong. The task however will not be easy, because Kyle will have to compete for a starting job at three positions where Alonso, Quentin, and Venable appear to be entrenched as the starters. Furthermore, Blanks will also have to compete with the likes of Guzman and Denorfia for extra At Bats as well as spot starts in 2012.
If Blanks can get more disciplined at the plate as well as hit for a bit higher average, he could be a force in San Diego’s lineup. He has unquestionably the most power on the Padres’ roster, and finding him a way to get 200-250 At Bats this season could be terrific if he plays to his ability and stays healthy.
And who knows? Maybe poor performance by a starter will open up the door for him in 2011 to realize his potential. 2012 could set the stage for Blanks to not only make the Big League club, but also receive large chunks of playing time. Nevertheless, if Quentin, Venable, and Alonso appear to be long-term solutions this season, Blanks could be blocked at every turn, and might find himself stuck in Triple-A Tucson. Wherever Blanks ends up playing, let’s hope he makes the most of his opportunities, because he has the potential to be a solid contributor for San Diego.