Kyle Blanks was drafted by the Padres in the 42nd round in 2004, from high school in Edgewood, New Mexico, population 1,893. Not well-known to scouts, he didn't sign right away and went to Yavapai Junior College in the spring of '05. He had a terrific spring and led the Arizona Community College league in hitting. As a draft-and-follow, the Padres retained his rights and signed him for $250,000 before he re-entered the draft pool for '05. Sent to the Arizona Rookie League, he hit .299/.420/.500, showing strong power potential and decent plate discipline, though he struck out a lot. He was huge at 6-6, 270, but showed good mobility and athleticism for his size. I gave him a Grade C in the '06 book, noting that we needed to see him at higher levels but that he had impressive upside.
Moved up to Fort Wayne in the Midwest League for 2006, Blanks hit .292/.382/.455 with 10 homers, 20 doubles, 36 walks, and 79 strikeouts in 308 at-bats. He was limited to 86 games by a leg infection, but I saw him play and was impressed with his mobility. I saw him and thought his swing looked a bit long, but that he worked the count well. I gave him a Grade C+ in the '07 book, warning people to "keep an eye on this guy" and that "a breakthrough is possible."
Lake Elsinore and the California League was a good environment for him in 2007: he hit .301/.380/.540 with 24 homers, 100 RBI, 44 walks, and 98 strikeouts in 465 at-bats. Although scouts identified some weaknesses against breaking stuff and wondered if the batting average would hold up against better competition, it was still a fine season at age 20 in High-A. I gave him a Grade B in the '08 book, though he didn't quite make the Top 50.
Blanks had few problems adapting to Double-A, hitting .325/.404/.514 with 20 homers, 107 RBI, 51 walks, and 90 strikeouts in 492 at-bats for San Antonio in 2008, posting a +21 percent OPS, and keep in mind the tough hitting environment at San Antonio. I got to see him again and his swing was shorter than when I saw him in '06. I moved him up to a Grade B+ and ranked him at Number 32 on the Top 50 hitting list, noting that he wasn't going to be a Seven Skill player, but that he should be a very good hitter.
Blanks split 2009 between Triple-A Portland (.283/.393/.485 in 233 at-bats) and San Diego (.250/.355/.514 with 10 homers in 148 at-bats), exhausting his rookie eligibility. He struck out once per game in the majors, but the power was impressive, and I was excited about him heading into 2010. Alas, he hit just .157/.283/.324 in 33 games last year before going down with an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery.
His career line is now .212/.325/.436 in 87 games, 250 at-bats, with 33 walks and 101 strikeouts. I know he looked awful last year, but given the injury, given the totality of his track record in the minor leagues, and what I've seen him do in person when he's healthy, I still think he's going to be a fine power hitter. He just needs to get healthy and work the rust off. Don't expect him to hit .300, but he's not a .157 hitter, either. He's only 24, and if his age curve is anything close to typical, he could have some really nice seasons coming up...maybe not in '11, but in '12-15.