Why Texas Rangers Fans Should Root For Kyle Blanks
The Texas Rangers announced Tuesday they have signed outfielder/first baseman Kyle Blanks to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported (Twitter) Kyle Blanks’ contract is for 1-year/$1MM base salary and the potential to earn $600,000 in bonuses if he is on the Texas Rangers roster.
And, that is a big IF.
Kyle Blanks has been listed on the disabled list 6 times since he made his major league debut with the San Diego Padres on June 29, 2009.
DISABLED LIST PER SEASON
2009: Played 54 Games
- Placed on the disabled list August 29 with a strained arch of his right foot, remained on the DL for the rest of the season with Plantar Faciitis
2010: Played 33 Games
- Placed on the disabled list May 20 with a strained right elbow
- Following a rehab assignment Kyle Blanks was transferred to the 60-day DL July 29 and he underwent season-ending Tommy John Surgery
2011: Played 89 Minor League Games (44 at Double-A, 35 at Triple-A), 45 ML Games
- Recovering from TJS Blanks began the season on the disabled list, removed and optioned to San Antonio (AA) on April 26
2012: Played 4 Games
- Placed on the disabled list April 14 with a strained left shoulder, underwent season-ending surgery on April
2013: 12 Minor League Games with Tucson (AAA), 88 ML Games
- Began season with Tucson, called up by San Diego Padres on April 14
- Placed on the 15-day disabled list July 12 with left Achilles tendinitis
- Reinstated August 31
2014: 34 Minor League Games (27 at Triple-A El Paso, 7 at Triple-A Sacramento), 26 ML Games (5 with San Diego Padres, 21 with Oakland Athletics)
- Kyle Blanks began the season in the Padres farm system at Triple-A El Paso, he was called up May 5
- Blanks was traded to the Oakland Athletics on May 15
- Placed on the 15-day disabled list June 24 with a left calf strain
- Began rehab assignment August 9, but had to stop August 21 due to a left Achilles tendinitis, ended the season on the 60-day DL (placed 8/24)
So, why would the Texas Rangers take a chance on an injury-prone 28-year-old? Great question, I’m glad you asked.
HE ANNIHILATES LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS.
*For comparison sake I’m going to presume the Texas Rangers and Mitch Moreland agree to a contract and his role would be the same as last season DH/OF*
Coming back from season-ending reconstructive ankle surgery Mitch Moreland is entering his age 29 season. The left-handed batter is notorious for struggling against left-handed pitchers. In his career Moreland has a batting average of .227, 33 runs, 20 doubles, 7 home runs and 38 RBI in 231 games, and 381 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.
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Right-handed hitter Kyle Blanks is entering his age 28 season. He has a career batting average of .244, 36 runs, 7 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 39 RBI in 122 games, and 295 plate appearances against lefties.
These numbers are fairly similar and appear to be saying that Kyle Blanks is basically another Moreland. So what’s the big deal? Let’s look a little deeper to get the entire story.
We all want that All-Star player. The best player defensively and offensively. The one who contributes the most to put the Texas Rangers in contention. And we all know in order to do that the Rangers need a player that can get hits, get on base, score runs and drive in runs. If you compare Blanks and Moreland using advanced metrics you begin seeing a different picture.
(Stats via FanGraphs)
[table id=20 /]
The two main stats to look at are wOBA and wRC+.
Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) combines all aspects of hitting (BA, OBP, OPS etc…) and basically determines how valuable each offensive outcome is in one handy stat. Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) gives us the Runs Created stat but with a little more oomph. The wRC+ stat compares a player’s wRC with the league and takes park effects into consideration. In other words, it levels the playing field across the board with each league average for a position player is alway at 100.*You may have already known to look at these metrics and how to use them so the table is handy for a quick comparison. However, if you are like me and you’ve seen these stats before and not completely understood them, then I hope this has helped.*
In comparing Kyle Blanks and Mitch Moreland this way, both of whom are likely competing for the Texas Rangers’ DH spot, it is easy to see that Blanks would contribute more. Again, IF Blanks can stay healthy. Yet, with Moreland we won’t find out how the ankle surgery impacted his hitting until Spring Training.
Blanks has spent the majority of his career playing first base, but if he breaks camp with the Rangers healthy he is more than likely their next platoon outfielder and designated hitter. Which compared to our other alternative designated hitter Mitch Moreland I’m more than happy that Texas took a minimal risk with Kyle Blanks. What do you think, is Blanks worth the risk?