Last night, Andres Blanco hit a three-run shot down the right field line to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead against the Seattle Mariners at CB Park. It seems a better time than any to give a bit of background to the Venezuelans career to this point.
For a player of 30-years old, not many in baseball will have heard of Blanco, nor know that he possesses a career average of .313 since making his MLB debut in 2004 with the Royals. They might not know what a surprise his first season was in the MLB, or that he nearly disappeared from the majors altogether in 2007. So here is the story of Andres Blanco.
Born in Urama, Venezuela, on April 11th 1984, Andres Eloy Blanco Perez was named after the famous Venezuelan poet by his father, and took up baseball as a young kid growing up in a country where the sport was very popular. He impressed the Kansas City Royals scouting system, and was signed as an amateur free agent in the year 2000, just 16 years old.
Blanco then went on a remarkable rise through the Royals organization, beginning in 2012 at rookie and A-Advanced level by hitting .252 over 57 games and 206 ABs, including 9 doubles and 16 steals. He played a full year at A+ in 2003 in an attempt by the Royals to get him consistent at-bats, and in that season he hit .244 with a .330 OBP, 11 doubles, 3 triples and 44 walks.
2004 was the year where it all came together for Blanco, as the Venezuelan infielder hit .247 with a .299 OBP through 93 games at AA, and earn a subsequent call-up to the Major Leagues for a 19 game spell. Andres impressed to say the least, going .3.17 at the plate with a blistering .379 OBP, driving in 5 RBIs and stealing 7 bases through 19 games and 60 at-bats.
2005 wasn’t as consistent, as Blanco spent a total of 54 games playing at Rookie, A+, AA and AAA, as well as 26 games for the Royals in the MLB, going just .215 through 86 at-bats. In 2006, he hit .241 with a .290 OBP, but had to undergo surgery to repair a shoulder tear which he suffered during a game against the Tigers.
After that, his career with the Royals was pretty much over as he never returned to the MLB and struggled hugely in the minors, managing just a .192 average and a .212 slugging percentage. Many speculated his career was over and the shoulder surgery had somewhat taken the pace out of his swing, but the Chicago Cubs took a chance and signed him in November 2007.
Blanco played the 2008 season with the Iowa Cubs and looked to have regained form, going .285/.327/.336, but the Cubs allowed him to become a free agent once again at the end of the season, before re-signing him in December.
It took until July 29th, 2009 for Blanco to hit his first career major league home run as he hit one for the Cubs against the Astros at Wrigley, in a year where he hit .252 through 53 games for the Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs then traded Blanco to the Rangers, where he became the utility infielder, playing 2 years in Texas and a total of 104 games, plus a 6 game stint at AAA. Over the spell, he hit .260 with a .309 OBP, but once again Andres found himself a free agent as the Rangers couldn’t justify a contract extension.
He received an invitation to Spring Training from the Washington Nationals in 2011, after a signings a minor league contract with them, but left and joined the Phillies on March 31st 2012. Blanco was at Lehigh for the 2012 season, going .235/.301/.346 over 120 games and 413 at-bats.
So far in his MLB Career for the Phillies, Blanco has been limited to opportunities from the bench, but he has looked like a brand new player at times. Despite not possessing much power at all, his plate vision and discipline, ability to work the count and hit good pitches has earn him a .313 average in 19 games and 36 at-bats, and arguably delivered his biggest hit last night with the 3-run homer.
10 years, 4 teams, 7 numbers changes and 254 majors games later, the Andres Blanco story is complete. Who knows what the future has in store for him, he may get a greater role in the Phillies team, or he may drift away as we wonder what might have been if the shoulder surgery didn’t happen. I for one feel he is an undervalued piece, and could be a useful utility infielder for most clubs. Last night showed that with a rare bit of pop, but lets hope Andres can continue to impress in a season of such limited hope.