Blandino's smooth transitions impressing Reds
As compensation for Choo, SS prospect deftly handles first pro season, position switch
CINCINNATI -- Although the Reds didn't want him to leave as a free agent after one season in Cincinnati, the departure of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was inevitable. And while Choo signed a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Rangers, the Reds didn't come away empty-handed.
Compensation came in the form of Stanford infielder Alex Blandino, an additional first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft who was taken 29th overall.
The organization was not afraid to challenge Blandino right away. Not only did he make the transition from college to the professional level, he also moved to shortstop after mostly playing third base for Stanford.
"I was really happy with Alex's first season," Reds player development director Jeff Graupe said. "He's an extremely intelligent and instinctual player. I think his transition back to shortstop was pretty seamless. That's a big jump asking, first of all, to make a position change to a higher priority position while being challenged offensively. I thought he handled it all well. He's got a mindset that he'll be ready to come in and compete more in 2015."
Blandino, who turned 22 in November, batted .283/.367/.480 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs over 63 games combined for Rookie-level Billings and Class A Dayton. Scouting reports indicate he has the ability to hit to all fields and has good plate discipline -- with 29 walks and 60 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances.
MLB.com ranks Blandino as the No. 8 prospect in the Reds' organization.
"I was really pleased with my progression and the time I spent in both Billings and Dayton," Blandino said. "I felt like I improved a lot. It was great to get my feet wet that first season. It was short -- only about 60 games overall. To play in two spots and meet a lot of guys in the organization and get a feel for the culture was a great experience. I'm really excited for this next year to keep on improving and play with those guys again."
Blandino was a shortstop in high school while growing up in Palo Alto, Calif., near the Stanford campus -- so it wasn't a completely foreign spot.
"I think going back to shortstop, at the beginning, there was a little bit of a learning curve," he said. "I hadn't spent too much time there in college. That being said, it was my natural position growing up. I definitely got a feel for it pretty quickly and felt like I improved a lot during the year. I was happy with how I ended up. This year, I will be back at short again and hopefully improving every day."
This week, Blandino was slated to join other Reds prospects at the player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., for an early camp to work on building strength. He's currently 6-feet tall and around 190 pounds.
Like any Minor Leaguer, Blandino wants to move up through the system quickly.
"You can always get stronger and faster, and honestly, be more consistent both offensively and defensively," Blandino said. "There are good players everywhere you go. It comes down to the guys that can put it together -- day in and day out -- so the big league team knows exactly what they will get for you. They are looking for that consistency.
"I'm honing in on all the skills I bring to the table, and perfecting them to be consistent is important."