Who is Kyle Blanks, the sole draft-and-follow signed by the San Diego Padres? Blanks played ball at Yavapai Community College in Arizona, earning Freshman and Player of the Year honors for the Conference. MadFriars.com caught up with Yavapai Manager Sky Smeltzer to learn more about the 6-foot-6, 270-pound first baseman.
Blanks batted .440 with 85 hits in 193 at bats, scored 45 runs, drove in 47, with 25 doubles and eight homer runs, leading the team in each of those categories. He also added five triples and 23 stolen bases in 25 attempts while walking 14 times and striking out 38 times.
The Padres ended up signing the prospect just prior to the May 30 deadline for $260K.
How is it possible that a Kyle Blanks, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound athlete, can steal 23 bases?
Coach Smeltzer: Actually he is 280 pounds. Kyle is an amazing athlete, not just for his size, but for anyone’s size. He runs a 6.90 sixty-yard dash which is an average Major League time. He is a very intelligent baserunner. I think because of his size he gets ignored a little bit by opposing pitchers until they figure out that this kid will steal a base on me.
He is a very good athlete. A very smart baserunner and obviously for his size he can really run.
Kyle won Player of the Year for the league and helped you guys immensely, what does he bring to the table as far as his all-around game?
Coach Smeltzer: Kyle is a kid that can hit for average right now and as time goes on he will develop more consistency with his power. He has a lot of power in his swing and it is not something he showed in high school. He only hit five home runs with the metal bat. What is more impressive about his offensive numbers is we play with wooden bats in our league. Kyle has already had 200 wood at bats which will put him ahead of the game.
He ended up hitting ten homers, including playoffs, with a wood bat and that power consistency is going to continue to come and a lot of the average hitting he does comes from the pure strength of being able to pull balls through the six-hole and fighting balls off to the right side. He will continue to hit for average but we will see that average drop as he continues to become more of a power hitter.
He has a good approach offensively, even when he gets two strikes. Right now he is about putting the ball in play with two strikes as opposed to what the Padres may try and have him do, air it out through the whole at bat and really learn how to develop that power.
As a right-handed, first baseman with his size, how is his fielding and work around the bag?
Coach Smeltzer: Defensively, agility-wise, his feet work well around the bag. He does tend to get a little bit top-heavy when he is fielding ground balls. I think that is still growing into his body. His feet, for being size 16, they do move well. He will continue to get better. He got a lot better for us as the year went on from a lot of his hard work and being coachable.
He was a high school shortstop, if you can believe that. It is really a new position for him and it is continuing to become an everyday learning experience for him. Footwork and athletically he is getting very good at it.
Given his large frame, does he also carry a long swing and what types of pitches give him trouble?
Coach Smeltzer: His strike zone is big but his swing is very short and compact. You have to when you use a wood bat and face the caliber of pitching we face on a day-to-day basis. He has faced plenty of 88-to-92 arms on a regular basis in our conference. You can't have a long swing and have success with a wood bat in your hands facing those kinds of arms.
His swing is very short but his strike zone is very big. That is something he has to fight through and he struggles with at times. Those balls down a little bit below his knees are a long reach for him.
I think mentally it works in his favor because the pitcher sees that it is a large strike zone they elevate (the ball) for him as well.