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1B Search Continues—Kyle Blanks?

Blanks, on the right, with his TJ scar visible. That's a big boy.
Blanks, on the right, with his TJ scar visible. That's a big boy.

This community seemed split on how much sense it made to hand a multi-year, relatively high value contract to the likes of Josh Willingham and it appears the Indians are hesitant as well. The Indians are, reportedly, shifting their strategy towards the trade market as the source of their 1B/LF RHB soultion. Gaby Sanchez was a popular rumor when Pujols was still rumored to be heading to Florida, but with Pujols in an Angels uniform, that ship has (or never did?) sailed. The Angels might have some chips, but the Indians are almost certainly tepid on Mark Trumbo (as they should be), and Kendry Morales' health appears to be a huge question mark. Morales has missed a season and a half worth of games after breaking his leg during a grand slam celebration.

Another name has surfaced from the West Coast—stalled Padres prospect Kyle Blanks. I probably wouldn't be writing anything at all about this, except that I couldn't resist the idea that the Indians might trade relief help and spare parts to acquire a young, San Diego position player in order to fill a major hole. We've done this once before and it didn't work out. For his part, Blanks never really reached top prospect status, although he did manage to force his way into the Padres' plans after showing good power and contact ability in the minors. His very short major league career has been up and down, lately more down than up.

Blanks is a mountain of a man, nearly 6'6" and nearly 300 lbs and can supposedly play 1B or LF. He's considered a good athlete despite his hulking stature. This size might be working against him—he's missed a number of games due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery and plantar fasciitis. These injuries aren't any better excuses than Matt LaPorta's list of bumps and bruises and Blanks, entering his age 25 season, is in danger of following the trajectory of players like LaPorta and Chris Davis—big, defensively limited sluggers who don't bring their bats when they get called topside.

The impulse with any Padre is to check home/road splits but Blanks looks no better statistically through the lens of Petco—he actually has an OPS about 60 points higher in his home park. You could see this as a good thing: the Padres SLG'd only .334 in Petco as a team last season, so Blanks' career mark of .430 actually seems pretty impressive. At the same time, this is all small sample size and Blanks' inability to simply make contact (3:1 K:BB rate and career average of .219) are overwhelming any good signs.

Blanks is, unquestionably, a buy low candidate, but he's hardly a ready-made solution like Willingham or Sanchez. There is a chance with Blanks that you're getting a player who's poised to become a decent starter if he can just stay healthy and get his feet under him; there's also a chance you're just acquiring a player who should inspire no more hope than Matt LaPorta. If Blanks is acquired, it's going to be on the basis of scouting, not statistical track record.

Of course, there's also the matter of the price. The rumor mill says the Padres want relief help, and the Indians have that to offer in spades. If the price is a reliever or two—say, Bryce Stowell and Joe Smith, it'd be hard to heave too many criticisms at the deal.

The Padres have another buy low candidate at 1B—Anthony Rizzo, one of the pieces from the Adrian Gonzalez trade. Rizzo's debut in the majors was very poor and his minor league track record is extremely similar to Blanks'. As he's younger than Blanks, his price tag would assumedly be higher. Incidentally, Gaby Sanchez, Blanks, and Rizzo all have extremely similar minor league lines, which tells you something about the best case scenario for the latter two.