The case for San Diego breaking camp with Kyle Blanks
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It’s easy to forget about big Kyle Blanks after a handful of injuries kept him from the spotlight the last few years. However, the once-touted prospect (#55 overall) showed versatility to play the outfield, despite being a natural first baseman, as well as the ability to hit the ball a long way to all fields.
His full-time shot was hindered by the aforementioned injuries, and he is still only 26 years old with attributes that seem to be ideal for spacious PETCO Park. Blanks does not just posses above-average speed for a big man, but for anyone on a baseball diamond. He plays the game with inner intensity, the right way: hard.
A memorable inside the park homerun in 2009 sticks out in my mind, when Kyle Blanks crushed the ball on a line to center field and immediately put his head down and lumbered out of the box. He seems to get his fair share of infield hits, as well, whether that’s because opposing defenders feel they have more time because of his large stature, or he just flat out beats the throw; it’s probably a combination of the two. Kyle Blanks, seemingly healthy now, believed his tenure with the Padres would end this offseason due to being arbitration-eligible and several health question marks. However, the Padres offered Blanks a reasonable salary, and he and his agent jumped at the chance to remain in the only organization he knows.
The Padres have had depth in the outfield and at first base, so why keep him? For starters, the Padres traded away top prospect first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs, in hopes of immediate help for the pitching staff, along with possibly being competitive more quickly. The Padres brought over another first baseman (the guy they believed would excel in PETCO Park) in the Mat Latos trade, Yonder Alonso. The Padres lost first baseman Matt Clark to a Japanese team this offseason, outfielder Blake Tekotte to the White Sox,and top outfield prospect Rymer Liriano to Tommy John surgery.
Liriano, 21, seemed to be on the fast track while playing well in double-A San Antonio — a pitchers park, especially tough on right-handed hitters. Liriano also played in the Arizona Fall League, showcasing his skills and improving his approach, and turning some of the naysayers into believers. He probably would have started the year in double-A, and it’s possible the Padres would have had him as a September call up this year. It’s possible that his injury, along with some of the other departures of organizational players, could result in more playing time for Kyle Blanks.
That brings me to Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin, now 30, who has only topped 120 games twice in his career. He’s a force, and a proven run-producer when healthy. However, like Blanks, he has found it hard to stay on the field because of his hard-nosed playing style. Still, the Padres plan on spelling him throughout the year in attempt to rest his surgically repaired knee, but there are no guarantees. In fact, he has yet to play a single game this spring, but the coaching staff has been adamant it’s just precautionary.
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