Our old buddy Wladimir Balentien is heading abroad:

Wladimir Balentien consistently crushed minor-league pitching at every level and hit .283/.351/.535 with 67 homers in 302 games at Triple-A, but he’s now headed to Japan at age 24 after struggling in 559 plate appearances for the Mariners and Reds.

Balentien has tons of power, smacking 15 homers and 31 doubles in 511 at-bats even while struggling overall in the majors, but he hit just .221 with 149 strikeouts and a ghastly .281 on-base percentage while flailing away at off-speed stuff.

Flaws and all I’m still convinced that he could be a solid platoon player, starting against left-handed pitching as a backup corner outfielder, but instead of trying to work his way back to the majors by crushing more Triple-A pitching he’ll take what is surely a higher salary for a chance to be a star in Japan.

I agree with every bit of that, and I don’t think Balentien got a fair shot in Cincinnati. That said, he didn’t exactly produce when called upon, and the big leagues are a tough business…but I would’ve enjoyed seeing a bigger window of opportunity for the big guy. He could have helped the team this year, and in the coming seasons.

Good luck, Wladimir.

7 Responses

  1. OhioJim

    Sometimes you wonder what goes into decisions and what they know about that we don’t. For me this is one of those times. This year Balentien hit better than .300 in the spring and in my mind was probably the last man cut among position players. If they would have had someone who rolled Janish and Cairo into one body, I think Balentien makes the club out of spring and Janish would have been in Louisville playing everyday.

    Wladimir’s first half at Louisville was brutal but he was off the charts in the other direction for the final third of the season. After not even getting a sniff of a shot when the Reds were starving for outfield bodies in late August and early September, it is hardly a surprise to see Balentien jump on this opportunity. If he has a big year in Japan, he will probably break through the ceiling and return to the US as a big leaguer with a substantial salary.

  2. Steve

    Balentien did get hurt toward the end of the year, which partly explains why he didn’t get called up later in the year.

    I spent two weeks in Goodyear watching spring training and agree that Balentien looked pretty good. He hit well and played defense capably. At the time, I had him ahead of Gomes if one were basing it off the spring training. But the Reds had clearly made up their mind about Gomes by then.

    This is even more troubling in light of today’s comments by WJ that the Reds are not likely to pursue an external free agent. I know that still leaves trade possibilities open, but isn’t WB worth giving a shot?

    I guess OhioJim is right. This is one of those times that we just don’t know what they know and have to assume (and hope) they know what they are doing.

  3. TheNatural

    @Steve: In my mind, it’s comforting to know that WJ isn’t going to pursue an external free agent. Werth and Crawford are out of our league. Hopefully, and WJ has indeed mentioned that this is the course they’re taking, they’ll successfully explore the trade market in order to find a LF.

  4. pinson343

    Balentien would have gotten a late shot last year, if he hadn’t gotten hurt at the end of the AAA season. Seems like his career here was star crossed.
    Anyway I wish him the best in Japan.

  5. pinson343

    @TheNatural: I agree. The solution at LF is not available via free agency. A trade is our only shot.

  6. brm7675

    @pinson343:

    Kinda surprised we didn’t go after that kid in KC who got traded to the A’s for what I thought was not very much.

  7. Doug Dennis

    Balentien is the epitome of a quad-A player. If the Reds are going to have a guy take over in LF, he better mash or have high OBP and Balentien is not either of those guys. If Balentien could play 3B, then maybe you have some added reason to keep him. I’m with pinson–I wish him well in Japan.

    Gomes is pretty bad defensively and he’s barely acceptable as half a platoon in LF. But the Reds were lucky with him last year and will continue to trot him out there until someone else (among their many options) seizes the job.