May 13, 2010
Kyle Blanks Has A Problem
Things have not gone well for Kyle Blanks to begin the 2010 season. The 6-foot-6, 285 pound left fielder has hit just .180 to begin the season and has struck out in 46 percent of his at-bats. Dating back to his debut in 2009, Blanks has whiffed in nearly 41 percent of his at-bats, so even when he was successful to start the strikeouts were a serious issue.
At the same time though, Blanks is doing plenty of things right. He's walking in 14.2 percent of his plate appearances (11.9 percent since 2009) and has still shown plenty of power: his Isolated Power for 2010 is .191, and it's .236 over his 237 major league at-bats. Overall, his line in those at-bats is .224/.338/.460—that's the kind of line that needs some more batting average tacked onto it, but is otherwise solid, especially when you consider he plays half of his games at Petco Park.
Blanks's most significant issue is that he's just not making contact right now. He's not swinging at an abnormally high number of pitches out of the zone, but he's making very little contact when he does swing at those pitches—the league average contact rate for pitches out of the zone is 65 percent, and Blanks is at 32.3 percent. He makes contact with nearly 80 percent of the pitches in the strike zone, which is also below the league average, but only by about eight-to-nine percent.
What he needs to do is get back to what made him an attractive prospect in the minors, and that's drawing walks and waiting for pitchers to throw him something he can hit over state lines. He's taken some pretty swings in 2010—that's where that nearly .200 ISO has come from—but more often than not he's swinging at pitches he can't do anything with. Someone with his patience should be able to hold off on pulling the trigger and force the opposition to throw him something he can drive—when that happens, we'll see the Kyle Blanks capable of hitting .260/370/.500 despite Petco's best attempts at stifling his bat, but until then he's going to continue to struggle.
Figuring out what to do with Blanks is going to be tough as a fantasy owner. You can't expect the Padres to start him every night given the way he has been playing, and a trip to Portland may happen sooner than we think if things don't turn around, just so he can get things back under control. Considering Scott Hairston (.247/.367/.521 with six homers in 90 at-bats) is a capable outfielder that can slot into left while Tony Gwynn plays in center, it wouldn't be a surprise if Blanks found himself on the bench more often than he did to begin the year.
If you have room on your bench, I would stash him there—he has too much potential to outright drop in deep leagues, but if you're in a mixed league with plenty of replacement options available, then it may be time to drop Blanks and wait for him to turn things around, especially if the Padres roll out their Hairston/Thin Gwynn/Venable outfield more often than they have.