Kyle Blanks’ Future Isn’t in Tucson… for Now

Kyle Blanks was supposed to be demoted to Triple-A Tucson on Thursday when center fielder Cameron Maybin returned from a lengthy stint on the disabled list. People were upset.

Such injustice the world has never seen. Injustice, or hyperbole. I always confuse the two.

Then Yonder Alonso’s hand, which was injured when he got hit by a pitch last week, didn’t improve. Alonso replaced Maybin on the DL, forcing Blanks to make a last-minute change of plans and head to Denver instead of Tucson.

This time last year, Blanks was the injured one. He had surgery at the end of April 2012 to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The giant from New Mexico who once thrilled us with exploits that hinted at future greatness had six plate appearances all season.

His future looked murky, at best. As I wrote in Baseball Prospectus 2013:

At an age when he should be refining his game and gaining experience, Blanks is watching from the sidelines. His is a potential impact bat, but at some point the injuries could take their toll and remove that potential. The window is closing, if it hasn’t closed already.

These are questions disguised as statements. And I’m thrilled to say that, in an admittedly small sample, Blanks has answered each of them beyond my wildest expectations:

  • He is refining his game. One of Blanks’ weaknesses coming into 2013 was an inability to make consistent contact. He’d fanned in 31.6 percent of his big-league plate appearances. This year that number is down to 20.3 percent.
  • He is gaining experience. Would Blanks be better served playing every day at a lower level? Maybe, but with a career line of .307/.405/.564 at Triple-A, he has nothing left to prove there. And as Tom Krasovic noted, “At his age, every MLB at-bat is precious.”
  • Injuries have not taken their toll. Blanks has a 131 OPS+.
  • His performance so far has forced the window back open.

Blanks would have been the odd man out if not for Alonso’s injury. That sucks. Other options existed, but none of them had, well, options.

Release Jesús Guzmán or Mark Kotsay? Both are probably better suited for bench duty than Blanks is. Ditch Will Venable? He makes for an easy target because people dream on his tantalizing tools rather than focusing on the flawed yet useful player he is, but let’s be serious.

Had the Padres continued with their plans to demote Blanks, it would have been for one simple reason: Because they could.

This brings us to an important life lesson that probably makes me sound like an old fart, which in my defense, I am. Sometimes you try hard, perform well, and end up on the outside looking in anyway.

Fairness is a quaint philosophical notion, but good luck pulling that card on your boss. If you ever find yourself in Blanks’ position (or at least the position he seemed to be in when I started writing), here are your basic choices:

  • Complain about circumstances, and tell everyone you’re better than that other guy or gal
  • Get to work and kick ass, so you never have to tell anyone that again

You can be a victim. Or not a victim.

Let me be perfectly clear. I’ve been a fan of Blanks’ since the first time I saw him play at Lake Elsinore many moons ago. I hate that he could get shipped to Triple-A at any moment, but I love that he’s given himself a chance to have a career that recently appeared to be over before it started. And I hope he takes advantage of the opportunity.

His first game “back” suggested that he will. After replacing Carlos Quentin in the eighth inning on Thursday night at Coors Field, Blanks knocked a 12th-inning double to center that helped set up the game-winning run.

He got to work and kicked ass. Now he needs to keep doing it until there’s nothing left to do. That’s not so hard, is it?

* * *

Getting to work? Kicking ass? Leave a comment, send an email (geoff@sonofaduck.com), or hit me up on Twitter (@ducksnorts).

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.