Acquiring a shortstop for the 2021 season was one of the few stated goals in the offseason for the Cincinnati Reds. They did pick up some guys that are going to get a look – Kyle Holder, a Rule 5 pick that was acquired via trade from the Philadelphia Phillies, and they signed Dee Strange-Gordon to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training and he’s going to at least get some looks at the job. Cincinnati is also going to look at Jose Garcia, who they still believe is the long-term answer but probably needs more time in the minors, Kyle Farmer who got a handful of starts there last season, and the forgotten man, Alex Blandino.
Alex Blandino is sort of the forgotten option. There are a lot of reasons for that, probably. First is that he hasn’t played in the big leagues since September of 2019. Out of sight, out of mind. Last year he did spend the season at the alternate training site at Prasco Park, but he never did get the call up to play in any of the 60 games that took place last year. His big league experience has mostly come at second base, where he’s played 154.2 innings. And he’s even for more experience at third base, 113.0 innings, than he does at shortstop – just 60.2 innings. But he split a lot of his time in the minors between second and shortstop, getting 1692.0 innings at short and 1523.2 at second (with some time at third, too).
“I feel great about the options that we have. I’m not ready today to name a starting shortstop by any means, but at the same time we know who we have,” said manager David Bell. “We’re familiar with our personnel and the options we have at the position – we feel great about that.”
Once we get past the idea that you can’t feel great about your options at a position if you don’t know who is going to be the starter and that it’s more manager speak as to not show a lack of confidence in any of your players – which, love it or hate it, a manager isn’t going to do because that would make for a very bad managerial decision – we can look at those options. A lot of the talk has been about Kyle Farmer because he’s the guy that’s returning from 2020 who has been spoken of with more confidence than Jose Garcia, who is also returning but has basically been talked about as the future but not today’s option, probably.
Very little has been said about Alex Blandino. The scouting report on Blandino coming up is that he was kind of stretched at shortstop and was more of a second or third baseman, but could cover short if you needed him to. Ideally, that’s not what you want from your big league starting shortstop. But when you look at the Cincinnati Reds options it seems that right now that applies to all of them except Kyle Holder and Jose Garcia – and again, Garcia’s almost assuredly heading to the minor leagues. Holder has no big league experience and projects to struggle at the plate (ZiPS has a .232/.283/.340 projection).
“Alex Blandino – we know what kind of player he is,” said Bell on Wednesday. “He didn’t get any opportunity last year. To his credit he continued to work, and did everything he could at the alternate site, on the taxi squad when he came over. He’s put himself in a position to get a really solid look at that position.”
Defensively, Alex Blandino probably doesn’t represent much of an upgrade over the other options. But offensively there could be some value he brings over the others. His track record in the big leagues is small – he’s played in just 92 games over parts of two seasons, never been given any sort of consistent playing time. And he’s struggled at the plate overall – but in 2019 he held his own in 23 games as he hit .250/.420/.361 with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts.
Over the span of his six seasons in the minors – though in 2018 he only played in three games – he’s hit .259/.365/.408 with 239 walks and 414 strikeouts. Blandino doesn’t really stick out anywhere at the plate, but he’s solid across the board. He gets the strikezone, has enough power to keep pitchers honest, draws some walks, and his strikeout rate is solid.
Not the ideal candidate for the starting shortstop position in most cases, but the 2021 Cincinnati Reds shortstop situation isn’t most cases. For one reason or another, the Reds are looking at a bunch of options that all have serious question marks on their resume. Why not Alex Blandino? He might be the best hitter among the group and probably isn’t the worst defender among them, either. With a good spring it’s possible that he could win the job over the rest of the group.
Reading this and considering the other articles about the SS void, I’m thinking Bell goes in with a “SS by committee” mindset. This is largely because that’s the hand he’s been dealt. None of the options stick out as truly terrible to me. Nobody gets me excited either. The only constant seems to be the SS will hit 8th or 9th.
I do hope they let Garcia season at least until next year. I liked what I saw (eye-test only) and think he’s the longer term option at this point. Rushing him would likely squash that and then we’re back to square one yet again.
Deb!!! Happy belated New Year to you and yours!
I agree that Garcia shouldn’t be rushed. He was completely overmatched at the plate in 2020. Let him get some air bats in the minors and build a foundation and some confidence.
Haven’t seen most of these guys play, maybe someone will rise to the occasion. I know it’s only a projection, but those numbers at the plate I can live with matched with Holder’s apparent prowess in the field. Should be interesting.
Are we ready for whatever the season brings? At least I can watch games given T-Mobile (nee Sprint) will be providing MLB-tv access again this year.
Bell does everything by committee. Unfortunately that includes his brains.
Voting as best comment of the day!
That doesn’t make any sense
I think you are correct. He has been over looked and for some reason undervalued. Is he a legit big league SS? No, but no one on the roster is. At baseball reference Farmer, Blandino, and Garcia have similar 2021 projections, so I think I’d go with Garcia and see if he can hit .230. If he can’t, then go with Farmer or any of the other candidates.
I agree about Garcia but the Reds won’t go that route.They have shown in the past few years that they don’t give much more then a cup of coffee to players before they turn 25 or so.Some say its service time and others say its because they really aren’t ready or that the player is blocked at his position by somebody else.I could buy all of these excuses if we were a contender the last few years rather then a consistent losing franchise content with a few more wins each year being more important then giving our younger players a legit chance at the big league level.Garcia’s defense is way ahead of his offense right now but on a team that could be just brutal on defense I wouldn’t hesitate to give him 300 or more at bats just to see.If our success as a team depends on what offense we get from the short stop position we are already in trouble in my opinion.The team said early they were looking for an upgrade at short but it never happened more then likely because of the money the top guys got.
All we can do, at this point, is get on the Hope train along with our FO.
Choo choo….. All Aboard!!! I might have to ride on the caboose this year though if we play well enough to be hanging around at the trade deadline and management doesn’t do anything to improve our chances I might have to jump off.
I’ve often wondered about Blandino as well — for a couple of years now. It doesn’t seem like he’s been given much of a chance for a first-round draft pick–whether at SS or 2B. Then again, maybe the coaches have seen enough of him to know what he can and can’t do. I was really surprised that he did not get to play at all last year with the Big Club. He’s had some unfortunate obstacles — a nasty injury, and then the pandemic — to overcome. But it seems to me he’s never been given much of an opportunity to show what he can do in the Show on a day-to-day basis. I’m not saying he’s the answer at SS, but I’d like to see what he can do. Certainly a valuable bench piece to have around, I would think.
Anyone know how old Blandino is? I feel like he has been with the organization for 15 years.
I think he is 28.
I like his as much as anyone of the others, especially his OBP. Not saying that is great, either. But, it’s a whole lot better than the other options have had.
As for the defense, I say we see if he can play into the position.
It would truly be a Cinderella story if he heads north with the club for opening day. I’m pulling hard for him. C’mom Alex, make believers of us Cincy fans and front office and Bell!
Blandino is a Triple A ballplayer at best. He can’t field as good as Garcia and his hitting is only slightly better if that.
he’d be my first choice to get the first shot at the job
and in other news …
Reds signed OF Tyler Naquin to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Ok, and no offense, but we have plenty of outfielders which are better. He would fit in in the strikeout department though. Last year he struck out 40 times in 40 games for a 30% strikout rate. Wow. He looks like another nothing pick up. Just my opinion.
I get that it’s “coach speak” or “FO speak” to the media…but it is irritating to see the revisionist history happening here and see them try to pass this off to Reds fans as everything is “A-ok”.
The fact is, Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino were on the roster last year when the Reds decided they wanted a better option than Galvis. The Reds passed over both in favor of playing a 21 year old who’d not played above A+ ball who obviously wasn’t ready. This decision was in pursuit of making a playoff push, not some “let’s play the young guys because we’re out of it” deal.
Over the offseason the Reds clearly identified SS as the one area where drastic improvement was needed. They did not seem to like their options at SS then. It’s funny how failing at your objective can change your tune. Do the Reds believe the fans have such short memories. The options now are less than what they were last year, especially if they’re going to allow Garcia the (necessary, IMO) time to develop.
Red’s fans deserve better.
Reds fans do deserve batter and they’ve deserved better for a long time now.
I agree. We have deserved better, AT SOME POINT, since 1991. I’m getting tired of whining about this year after year.
There have been some minor bright spots.
1995, 1999 sorta, 2010 – 2013 were pretty fun, and even last year once things got going. Playoffs was very sad though. The pitchers pitched their hearts out and the Offense was fast asleep.
I think between Holder starting against RHP and Farmer against LHP, we can have a top 15-20 SS with strong defensive numbers. Holder against AAA in 2019 hit .291/.359/.444 (.803 OPS) which isn’t going to blow anyone away, but doesn’t scream an automatic out when forecasting his move up to MLB. Farmer has a career .761 OPS against LHP with an OPS near .850 since 2019. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a decent platoon here with above average defense. For 2019, an OPS of .750 would’ve ranked 17th right behind Amed Rosario and Nick Ahmed and ahead of Dansby Swanson and Jean Segura.
Am I disappointed this is the outcome after the stated goal of “Get the Shortstop!”? Yes absolutely. But, I’m not as pessimistic as most that I’ve been reading. Sure, it could be that spring training optimism or could it be viewing the options without the disappointment of not being able to sign and bring in one of the big FA SS’s?
Time will tell…
We need to remember that the Triple-A baseball in 2019 was the same one that was used in MLB and that it was juiced as can be. But, a platoon at shortstop with those two may not be the worst hitting combination around. On the flip side….. it very well could be. There’s not exactly a track record there for either guy.
We’ll probably see the comittee approach, as thinking small is what the Reds do best, but for spring training at least give Senzel and Geno some time there in case you have to shuffle lineups in the regular season to optimize a pitching matchup.
The OBP figs of .420 in a short MLB stint and .365 in six years in the minors look good if he can produce that. (Looking for bright spots in the midst of an ice storm here).
The Padres have exposed the Reds management.
If San Diego can trade and spend aggressively and build a serious World Series contender in 2 seasons … during a pandemic, with no fans last year … what stopping the Reds?
And the Cardinals do it year in and year out.
The Padres didn’t build it in two years. They built it over the long haul, beginning with AJ Preller’s getting the head job in 2014. They were good, but they were also lucky. They got Fernando Tatis, Jr. in June 2016 by trading James Shields to the White Sox. They got Chris Paddack that same month for Fernando Rodney, the definition of a generic Closer.
Then they built up their farm system for about 5 years, by having bad teams and scouting well. They used it to get Blake Snell, etc.
The free agents could only be signed after they had young players that were ready to contribute.
With Tatis the Padres have two maybe three players with Votto sized contracts. Comparing the financial status of Cincinnati compared to San Diego is not an apples to apples comparison. The opportunity for sponsors and corporate dollars is not close. It always comes down to the dollars.
Articles like this have done more to satisfy my offseason fandom than the Reds have.
I feel Blandino, along with Aquino, have not been given a real chance to prove or disprove their overall ability as a regular. I think also that Blandino’s physical status has been a mark to keep him on the bench since lanky shortstops have usually been the norm.
I agree with you completley on Aquino, he really deserves some time in the lineup. As far as Blandino goes, we will see. There were times he looked pretty good, then pretty bad. Could be that’s what he needs to. But, with David Bell being the manager, who knows??
Wasn’t Castellini crowing about winning championships on the day he was announced as the Red new owner? Time for new owners IMO.
The reason why he is the forgotten option is he hit .259 In 6 seasons in the minors.
The SS situation could not have been handled more poorly than it has been by this front office.
I realize Nick Krall was probably under a lot of constraints from ownership. But it’s hard to imagine coming into Spring training with any worse options at SS than they current have. It’s really inexcusable.
A .260 average at shortstop would look pretty good considering the Reds recent offensive stats.
Both Farmer and Blandino are adequate but man there were very good shortstops out there for the taking. Disappointing to watch them get scooped up by other teams when clearly there was a need in Cincy. But who knows, maybe one of the two will take advantage of the opportunity. Can only hope at this point.
I see that Alcantara was designated by the Cubs. No options, have to trade him. I wonder if the Reds are sniffing
Well- the Reds seem to be nose-deaf to what stinks—so I bet they are sniffing
Blandino should have standing orders to his agent to “Get me OUT of Cincinnati!”
Blandino has always had a good OBP. While his power hasn’t translated from the minors to the majors, his OBP has. I think he’s a long shot to get a lot of time at SS, but I can see him making the team and being a solid contributor as a pinch hitter that is good getting on base with the ability to play all over the infield.
lets get cozart back for a gap year
Would Garcia and Senzel be enough to pry Trea Turner from the Nationals?
My bet is if Kyle Farmer gets regular at bats, he hits .280. He has done it at every level. Vastly underrated defensive skills.
I’m way more interested in OBP than batting average. Farmer has a little power, but actually so does Blandino. How is it that Blandino is so easily overlooked? And except for emergency catcher, Blandino offers the same defensive flexibility as Farmer. Given that there’s no obvious stud to play shortstop I think it’s a huge mistake to simply dismiss Blandino in favor of Farmer. Or the other way around of course.
Alex Blandino hit .458/.536/.792 in 28 plate appearances during 2020 Spring Training.
If Blandino could maintain an OBP north of .350 and play decent defense why wouldn’t you give him plenty of starts while Garcia develops? That would be such an upgrade – batting average isn’t nearly as critical as just plain getting on base for what looks to be a weak offensive position. I’ll be disappointed if Blandino doesn’t get a serious look.
I have never seen what the organization saw in Blandino. He doesnt hit and its nothing special at defense. They signed the cuban SS for 7 million and he has yet made the majors.. (Rodriguez). If anything he should be above Blandino on the depth chart… i sure hope the team has a chip on thier shoulder or its going to be a long summer
Suarez, Senzel and Garcia for Trea Turner, Carter Kieboom and Cade Cavalli. What do you think Doug?
Here’s a SS name there for the cheap taking I have not seen mentioned – Jedd Gyorko.
He’s 33, low OBP. in 2019 he was terrible. Last year he hit 9 home runs, but struck out at a 32% clip. Unless he fields his position like Ozzie Smith, no thanks.