A Minors Obsession

The turn around of Alex Blandino in 2017

The Cincinnati Reds drafted Alex Blandino in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, 29th overall. His career started out well. He hit .283/.367/.480 between Billings and Dayton that first season in 2014. The next year he spent most of the year in Daytona. He went out and his .294/.370/.438 for the Tortugas that year and earned a promotion to Double-A in August, towards the end of the season.

That’s when the struggles first came for Alex Blandino. In 30 games he hit .235/.350/.374. That came along with 18 walks and 21 strikeouts, which was a very good sign, but he simply wasn’t finding the grass when he put the ball in play. Following the season he went to the Arizona Fall League and the struggles continued as he hit .175/.246/.270.

In 2016 things didn’t get started on time. While playing in a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament with Nicaragua (his father is Nicaraguan) he was injured and missed the first few weeks of the season. When he was healthy he joined Pensacola and spent the entire season in Double-A with the Blue Wahoos. Things never really got going. He hit .232/.333/.337 on the year with 55 walks and 114 strikeouts. It was easily the highest strikeout rate that he had since signing and his lowest output of power as well.

2017 began as a continuation of struggles in Double-A. In 18 games in April, Alex Blandino hit just .182/.357/.236. He walked as often as he struck out, with a walk and strikeout rate of 19.7%, a good sign, but when he made contact there simply wasn’t anything happening.

Things began to change in May and they changed with a quickness. Over the next seven weeks he would play in 44 games for Pensacola and hit an impressive .289/.382/.549. He had 19 doubles and six home runs in that stretch. Over 165 plate appearances he walked 18 times and had 35 strikeouts.

That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Louisville. He has slowed down a little bit, but not much with his promotion to Triple-A. In 56 games played with the Bats he’s hit .273/.391/.465. In those 208 plate appearances he’s walked 28 times and he’s struck out just 32 times. He’s kept his walk rate high with the promotion, but he’s also cut down his strikeouts. In Double-A in 2017 he struck out 20.8% of the time – a fine rate, but in Louisville it’s down to 15.8%.

After a long struggle in Double-A that began in August of 2015 and went through April of 2017, Alex Blandino was finally healthy enough and made the adjustments needed to not only figure out the level, but also make a perfect transition to the next level. Last week I wrote about whether or not the team should consider calling up Blandino in September given his turn around. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason or he will be Rule 5 eligible in December. His turn around couldn’t have come at a better time for him as it seems like a very safe bet that he will wind up being placed on the roster.

31 thoughts on “The turn around of Alex Blandino in 2017

  1. I like Blandino at second in Cincinnati. With an OBP at least fifty points higher than Peraza and with more power he can be a table setter along with Winker. If Votto is headed for 100 RBI this year imagine what that might look like hitting behind Winker and Blandino instead of Hamilton and Peraza. It won’t happen of course, but I can dream. Either way it’s good to see a couple of first round picks (Blandino and Ervin) playing up to their potential again.

  2. Glad to see Blandino coming along. Him and Ervin both. Peraza has been doing better the last month also. Worse case, one or the other is a trade chip.

  3. What position(s) is he playing and how’s his defense? Where’s he project on the big league club, if he does get added to the 40-man, which I too hope he does? How’s his baserunning? His durability seems to be good (I knocked on wood!).

    • He is an infielder. He played SS in college (Stanford) on a team which was eliminated from the NCAA tournament 1 game short of the CWS (final 8) in his last season there. Much as with Nick Senzel, he didn’t project to have the right combination of range and arm to play SS in MLB. He’s played a lot of 2B in the minors and some 3B along along with SS.

    • In a utility role he can play 2B/3B/SS. But if he’s going to play every day, it’s probably second base only. The bat won’t play every day at third – though the defense is fine at second and third base on a daily basis.

      • Could he play shortstop as a backup for a 10 day DL gap filler or a few weeks? He appears to be great infield depth until the long term infield picture is clearer.

          • I’ve only seen him play SS once and he wasn’t particularly tested… Is his range on par with Jeff Keppinger’s? Worse? Better?

  4. It is good to see Blandino beginning to realize his potential. The Reds middle infield, particularly 2B, could become a crowded place since either Eugenio Suarez or Nick Senzel is likely to also end up in that group. Then there is Shed Long who could be as little as a one year further back if he can get over the AA speed bump which seems to have slowed him down much as it did Blandino.

      • Every report I’ve seen says he would be a hit-first second basemen. I’ve never seen a report that indicates he’s got potential at the other infield spots. For example, MLB.com rates him a tick below average (45) at 2B.

      • If guys could play shortstop, they’d be playing shortstop. You don’t move guys off of shortstop if you think they have a chance to play there. Shortstops are simply too valuable.

  5. Everything I’ve seen points to Blandino being a plus fielder at second with Gold Glove potential. He is an average base runner.

    • I can’t see him being a gold glover at second base. He’s fine there, but definitely doesn’t look like a gold glove caliber defender IMO.

  6. I do not expect anything from Blandino. He is not a player they should count on.

    • He was good enough to have been a first round draft pick out of a major D1 NCAA program and responded with his back against the wall when this season started. I wouldn’t count him out just yet. However he is in his age 24 season with his window closing. I’d guess he is much more likely to be a viable bench piece than than centerpiece.

      • I have not seen him play at all. Just am highly skeptical oh 90% of these young players. I doubt that Winker, Blandino and Lorenzen will change the fortunes of this team.

        • A pretty high percentage of young players in every organization don’t become good MLB players. Some do, though. What strategy for filling the roster would please you?

        • Makes me a little skeptical of your opinion on minor league players in that case.

  7. With Hererra’s shoulder troubles this year and Peraza’s youthful up-and-(seemingly mostly) downs. Blandino should get an opportunity to show he can contribute at Cincy. If a three player combo of hererra-peraza-gennet-blandino can hold down the middle infield things begin to look better.

    • Well Suarez or Senzel are going to play 2nd base…unless Suarez moves to SS (my choice). I was thinking they might platoon Scooter/Blandino at 2B. Peraza and Scooter can be the jack of all trades and move around a little bit….esp if Senzel needs more time in the minors, but he might as well learn at the big boy level along with most of our pitching staff.

  8. Well Doug, I honestly haven’t seen much of Blandino in person, but I remember reading that he was a plus defender at second. Of course, when it comes to the Reds minor leagues, ten times out of ten I choose to defer to your expertise!

  9. Doug, if Dilson Herrera is healthy (big wildcard, I know), how much better overall does he project to be than Blandino? Prior to the shoulder problems, Herrera’s hitting line looked a lot stronger than Blandino’s (better numbers, younger ages at the various levels).

    • I like the bat for Herrera quite a bit more. There’s more pop in there and the other hitting skills seem to be a tad better, too. He’s not as good defensively as Blandino is.

  10. Gennett’s splits are ideal for a platoon at 2B. Would you prefer to start 2018 with Herrera as his platoon partner or Blandino?

    Just a thought … It’s a pretty cool thought that the Reds could have Blandino playing everyday in Louisville next year ready to fill in for an infield injury. That’s the kind of depth that gets championship teams through the trials of the big “162.”

  11. You can never have enough good players. Eventually the true gems will show themselves.

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