Rotoprofessor’s Prospect Watch – Kyle Blanks

Dec 6, 2008

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

It’s obvious that the Padres are a team that is looking to slash payroll and rebuild.  One of their brightest prospects is Kyle Blanks, who under such a scenario should seem like a shoe-in to make an impact in 2009.  You have a player who at Double A hit an impressive .325 with 20 HR and 107 RBI in 492 AB.  In 2007, at Single A, he hit .301 with 24 HR and 100 RBI, so you can’t really call it a fluke.

Still, it is tough to currently imagine the former 42nd round draft choice from 2004 making an impact in 2009, but that’s because of his position and no other reason.  He currently is a first baseman, and with Adrian Gonzalez fully entrenched there and the team having no reason to move him, there is a tremendous roadblock in his way that he has little chance of overcoming.

Listed at 6′6″ and 270 pounds, you have to begin to wonder if the right-handed hitter would be able to shift to another spot.  He has showed a little bit of speed in the past, stealing 11 bases in 2007, though that number dipped to just 5 last season.  He also saw a fairly drastic decrease in runs, from 94 to 75.

Given the huge expanses of Petco Park, you have to wonder if he would be capable, but if he continues to hit the way he has over the past two seasons, the Padres are going to have little choice but to either trade him or shift him.  For a team that is looking to accumulate young talent that it could use, Blank could prove to me an interesting commodity to swap for another top prospect, maybe a middle infielder or a pitcher, things they clearly could use.

Still, I think the more likely scenario sees the team testing him out in the OF next season, as he is just too good to get rid of.  I’m sure people are questioning his power, given his lower total last season and the fact that he’d be playing in a pitchers park.  Unfortunately, the fact that he had just 23 doubles last season doesn’t really help the case that the power is there.

When you consider that the league leader in the Texas League had just 25 HR, however, the number starts to look better.  I’m not going to say that it’ll translate into a 30 HR rookie campaign in 2009, especially in that park, but I do believe that the power could continue to mature and will be there at the major league level.

His average was buoyed by a .366 BABIP, a number that we wouldn’t expect to see him repeat.  In 2007, though, that number was a reasonable .338, so I don’t see it as unlikely that he could be a .300 hitter at the major league level.

His Double A numbers are actually very comparable to the Reds Joey Votto (despite him playing in the Southern League, as opposed to the Texas League that Blanks played in).  Votto, in 2006, hit .319 with 22 HR and 77 RBI over 508 AB.  In fact, besides the ballpark giving Votto a huge advantage, I fully believe that Blanks could be every bit the hitter that Votto is at the major league level.

Prior to the 2008 season, Baseball America had him ranked as the team’s tenth best prospect, as well as their best power-hitting prospect.  That should help to ease your concerns about his power stroke, at least a little bit.

The biggest question is whether Blanks will get his opportunity in 2009 and if so, when.  Chances are that he obviously won’t start the season with the Padres, given that his only chance to is to shift to the OF, a position he’s not familiar with.  If it were up to me, the team would start his transition in Spring Training, before having him start the season in Triple A and settle in to playing a new position.  By midseason, you could see Blanks filling a spot in the Padres line-up and putting up significant numbers.

Is that likely to happen?  I’d put it at 50/50 that the Padres actually try this out.  They very easily could just leave him at 1B for the season at Triple A and then figure it out later on.  Who knows, honestly, but Blanks certainly has the bat to make an impact in the majors.  At this point, all we can do is sit and wait and see how the Padres play it.

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