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Blanco returning to provide Giants OF depth

Veteran announces move on Instagram after spending 2017 with D-backs
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Seeking depth and balance in their outfield, the Giants turned to a familiar face: Gregor Blanco, who agreed to a one-year Minor League contract with an invitation to the team's Major League camp at Spring Training.

Blanco, a part-time performer last season with Arizona, announced his return to the Bay Area on his Instagram account. The Giants confirmed the signing but did not officially announce the move.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Seeking depth and balance in their outfield, the Giants turned to a familiar face: Gregor Blanco, who agreed to a one-year Minor League contract with an invitation to the team's Major League camp at Spring Training.

Blanco, a part-time performer last season with Arizona, announced his return to the Bay Area on his Instagram account. The Giants confirmed the signing but did not officially announce the move.

Accustomed to coming off the bench and capable of playing all three outfield positions, Blanco can be used anytime and anywhere. Should he make San Francisco's Opening Day roster, Blanco would provide a left-handed-batting alternative to right-handed-hitting outfielders Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence, Austin Jackson and Gorkys Hernandez. Austin Slater and rookie Steven Duggar, the Giants' Nos. 4 and 5 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, are the only other left-handed-batting outfielders who have a serious chance of making the team out of Spring Training.

Blanco's most enduring moment with the Giants occurred on June 13, 2012. His lunging catch of the Astros' Jordan Schafer's line drive to the right-center-field gap to lead off the seventh inning preserved Matt Cain's successful perfect game against Houston.

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Statistically, however, Blanco's fielding has been somewhat mixed. He has ranked slightly below average in regular advanced defensive metrics since 2015, compiling minus 6 Defensive Runs Saved that year, minus 7 in 2016 and minus 3 last season. His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) checked in at minus 1.1 in 2015, minus 4 in 2016 and minus 1.2 a year ago.

According to Statcast™'s Outs Above Average, however, Blanco improved from minus 6 in 2016 to plus 2 last season.

And he has played his best defense in left, where his UZR was plus 3.5 in 2015, plus 2.4 in 2016 and plus 1 in 2017. This creates the possibility that Blanco could split time with Pence, the Giants' projected starting left fielder.

Blanco becomes the Giants' fastest player in rejoining the club. Statcast™ recorded his average sprint speed on the bases at 28.8 feet per second last year, exceeding Hernandez's team-best 28.6.

Blanco, 34, was a complementary yet valuable performer for San Francisco. He appeared in 649 games for the Giants and started 428 of them -- 154 in left field, 181 in center and 93 in right. His career splits as a Giant were .259/.338/.360. He also accumulated 19 homers and 157 RBIs while stealing 75 bases in 103 tries with San Francisco.

Last year, Blanco recorded a slash line of .246/.337/.357 in 90 games with Arizona.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Gregor Blanco