Not Shooting (Kyle) Blanks

by Eno Sarris // 

Kyle Blanks is a big man. Predictable headlines aside, this large human being (6′ 6″, 270 pounds at least) might be able to power your fantasy team to a late season push. Let’s take a look at his strengths (!) and weaknesses.

His obvious strength is his strength. The hoss bent-armed an inside fastball from Matt Cain into the seats Tuesday night, and he’ll break some distance records when he gets ahold of a pitch with his arms extended. The Big Nasty has a .260 ISO (isolated slugging percentage, or SLG-batting average) this year, which lines up very well with his .264 rookie ISO. Sure, last year, he didn’t show power like that, but he was hurt. Now on the correct side of Tommy John surgery, and coming off a minor league season in which he ISO’ed over .360, he looks to have his power stroke back. And the league ISO right now is .141, so a .260 number is impressive. It would be fourth in the league since 2008 among qualified batters.

How much should fantasy owners worry about his home park, though? Not as much as you might expect. As a right-handed batter, PetCo only suppresses his home run power by 5%. That’s it. Sure, he might lose some doubles (right-handed double power is suppressed by 28%), but Blanks has legit home-run power and will be able to muscle balls out of his home park.

Losing those doubles really only speaks to his major weakness anyway. As a guy who hits half his balls in the air (and should, given his power), Blanks is already at a batting average disadvantage. Add in the fact that he is striking out in 29.6% of his at-bats, and he’s virtually assured of having a mediocre batting average. Since 2008, only four batters have qualified for the batting title while also striking out more than 27% of the time: Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena. The best batting average of that crew is Cust’s .240. So, yeah, he’s not likely to have a nice batting average.

Could he improve his strikeout rate? His minor league K rates oscillated between about 20% and 25%, so maybe. But only maybe. His 15% swinging strike rate, which has held steady throughout his 400 major league plate appearances. That would be the third-worst swinging strike rate in baseball since 2008 among qualified batters. The only silver lining is that he’d be in a virtual tie with Ryan Howard, who has struck out about 26% of the time in the same time frame. Howard had a .265 batting average over the past three years.

A .260 batting average will play if he has 30+ homer power, that much we’ve learned from Mike Stanton. With offense (and, in particular, power) down around the league, Kyle Blanks towers above the fray both literally and figuratively. If power, and power alone, is your main goal. it’s time to go get some Blanks for your gun. And by gun, we mean fantasy team, of course.

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