You can probably ask this question about 75 percent of the Phillies roster – and we have been – but for now, we’re going to dig into why a 33-year-old utility man hitting .151/.225/.204 on the season is still blocking a spot on the big-league squad.
Going into the season, the reasoning for why Andres Blanco was on this team made a lot of sense. After all, this was supposed to be a young team that was going to take the next step in a rebuilding process. His versatility to play anywhere – even pitch apparently – is invaluable to any team but especially for a young team in transition like the Phillies. Blanco had been a reliable bat off the bench the past three seasons, batting .254/.319/.416 with 12 homers and 49 RBI in 523 plate appearances going into 2017.
Just as important as his versatility and timely hits was Blanco’s veteran presence in the locker room, especially with Latin American players like Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez. With leaders like Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard gone, Blanco was the oldest position player on the team aside from Daniel Nava.
Now four months into the season, it’s clear the Phillies aren’t the team we thought they were going to be. It’s also clear that Blanco’s role isn’t as necessary as it was once thought to be.
With all of the Phillies struggles, it seems wasteful to keep giving valuable at bats to a veteran who is struggling this badly. Like, in the six games leading up to the all-star break, Blanco went 1-for-18 with five strikeouts.
Blanco has been getting a fair share of starts since Hernandez has been sidelined with his oblique strain. Meanwhile second basemen Scott Kingery is hitting .304/.328/.554 with four home runs and eight RBI in 14 games since moving up to triple-A. Kingery made the jump to Lehigh Valley on June 26 after absolutely destroying the ball in Reading, hitting .313/.379/.608, 18 homers and 44 RBI with 28 walks in 69 games.
All of that being said, however, just because this season hasn’t gone according to plan doesn’t mean the Phillies front office should throw the whole plan out the window. Klentak made it clear before the season that players wouldn’t get the call until they were ready, no matter what was going on at the major league level. Kingery is producing like he’s ready, but he’s still only played 14 games in triple-A. To rush up a prospect like Kingery just because of poor play by a utility man isn’t logical.
While a player like Blanco isn’t as valuable on a floundering team who has prospects waiting in the wings as he is on a contending team or a team in transition, his veteran presence has still been an asset. This was evident when he took charge in addressing Herrera after a series of baserunning mishaps earlier this season. He has been one of the most vocal players with the media, calling on his teammates to do better and acknowledging the team isn’t playing up to their capabilities.
Like most things regarding the 2017 Phillies, Blanco’s role on this team doesn’t make complete sense. Does leadership or versatility really matter on a team destined for the basement?
One would think Klentak would try to move him at the deadline, but there wouldn’t be much in return and while it will clear up a spot, is that roster spot ready?