Can Kyle Blanks force himself into Manager Bud Black’s lineup, and stay there?
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
All things being equal, if Kyle Blanks had stayed in Triple-A El Paso and reached 500 at-bats, he would have been on pace for 45 home runs, 100 RBI and 110 hits. Not bad for an early season pace and certainly more than good enough to warrant a plane ride to San Diego.
But all those numbers truly say is exactly what Padres’ decision makers and fans have known since 2004. Namely that the 6-foot-6, 265 pound, right-handed mashing Blanks has sky high potential. This after all is the same guy who has not one, but TWO minor league seasons with 20 homers, 100 RBI and a .300 average.
So what will be the key to the success that thus far eluded him in the majors? Easy answer: put him in the game. Every game, all game.
While Blanks has posted a sub .230 average in just over 700 at-bats, those at bats have been parsed out over six seasons. Only in 2013 did he surpass the 200 at-bat threshold. With that, he posted a career high 35 RBI and an average nearly 20 points higher than his career mark. For the balance of 2013 Blanks posted a HR every 25 at-bats, and an RBI every 8. For some perspective, that last number is a better mark than any Padre in 2014 except for Yasmani Grandal who is averaging an RBI in every 7 at-bats.
In short, the biggest hurdle for Blanks’ success, may be the very people who gave him another chance to prove himself.
Manager Bud Black recently told the UT’s Jeff Sanders hard moves like designating Xavier Nady for assignment must be made to “see if you can generate a little something.” Clearly, Nady did not do enough in the first month of the season to keep his big league job. But the flip side of the issue is does Black do too much to really allow anyone the chance to “generate a little something” by the way of offense?
Headlining “Bud Black’s Wild West Platoon Show” are three catchers with over 35 at-bats, but none with more than 75. The fun-filled extravaganza continues featuring seven outfielders with at least 30 at-bats, but only two with more than 90.
In the words of any circus barker, who may feel at home at the BBWWP Show at Petco Park: ‘Come one, come all.’
First base has been one of the least affected by the platoon-happy manager. Yet still, just two at-bats into his latest call-up, Blanks was lifted “for defensive purposes” in the fifth inning of a game where the Padres trailed 2-0. How can the Padres fully utilize what Blanks’ strength is–the ability to hit the ball out of the yard, if Black won’t give him the chance to do so in more than 2 at-bats per night?
When all is said and done, hitters truly meant to produce at the big league level can force themselves into a line-up eventually no matter if they get 25 at-bats per week or 10. Kyle Blanks is no different. But giving him at-bats every day may be the quickest and surest way to find out if Blanks can truly get close to that 20/100 plateau anywhere but the minors and actually be the “little something” Black and the Padres are looking for.