Versatile infielder could be Reds' keystone of tomorrow
By Mark Sheldon
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds prospect Alex Blandino was a third baseman at Stanford, moved to shortstop after being selected 29th overall in the first round of the 2014 Draft and is now targeted to play second base in the upcoming season.
How optimistic are people about Blandino's ability to handle second base? He played only 12 games there in 2015 and a handful more in the Arizona Fall League, but was ranked in January as the fifth-best second baseman in the Minors by MLBPipeline.com.
"I worked at second base in practice so it wasn't a completely foreign position to me," Blandino said. "In the Arizona Fall League, I got the opportunity to play primarily at second base and put a lot of work in there. I think being able to show versatility on defense is a huge asset. As long as you can produce offensively, being able to go out there and find a spot anywhere in the infield is important to help your team."
The same ranking listed fellow Red Jose Peraza as the No. 2 second baseman in the Minors. Either could foreseeably be heir apparent at the spot to veteran Brandon Phillips.
Blandino, 23, has been featured at all three of his infield spots in Cactus League games by Reds manager Bryan Price.
"I feel like I've logged a lot of innings at all three spots throughout my young career," Blandino said. "Your club knowing and having the confidence you can play defense at a high level makes everyone feel a little bit more at ease."
Blandino started Saturday at second base vs. the Mariners and went 0-for-4.
"We've looked at him as a guy that could hold down any of those positions," Price said. "He could be a super-utility guy. I think second base, initially, is where we'd like to play him with the most frequency.
"In the end it comes down to need and his overall ability, which as he gets a bit closer to the big leagues, we'll be able to assess. I haven't really been able to form an opinion other than he's a really solid baseball player as far as which position is his best to play."
In 110 games combined last season at Class A Advanced Daytona and Double-A Pensacola, Blandino batted .278/.364/.420 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. Through nine spring games, he's 5-for-19 (.263) with one homer.
MLBPipeline.com ranked Blandino as the Reds organization's No. 8 prospect.
"You can do a lot of things with him," Price said of Blandino's hitting ability. "He's a gap-to-gap guy. You can use him to hit-and-run, bunt. He does all the sometimes-underappreciated detail work that helps winning teams win."
Blandino is a first-timer in big league camp this year. It's afforded him chances to work closely with coach Freddie Benavides and instructor and Reds great Barry Larkin.
"Getting to learn from a Hall of Famer is an incredible opportunity," Blandino said.
With his quality glove and what's considered an advanced approach to hitting by scouts, Blandino could be on the fast track to the big leagues with continued success and versatility.
"I feel like I'm ready for whatever challenges that lie ahead," Blandino said. "A lot of improvement yet to come but a lot of adversity still I am going to have to face, there's no doubt about that. I'm excited and ready to tackle that."