Why the A’s Traded for Kyle Blanks
The reasons the A’s just traded for Kyle Blanks seem pretty obvious. While Blanks is no longer young by baseball standards, there are plenty of things about him that would appeal to the Money-Ball A’s.
First, Blanks is a former 42nd round draft pick. Anybody selected this late in his draft class is almost always undervalued by the organization that selected him.
Second, his minor league performance at a young age was truly impressive. He had a .920 OPS at age 20 in the Class A+ California League, and he had a .918 OPS at age 21 in the Class AA Texas League. These numbers over two full seasons at these ages suggested the guy could hit.
Starting in 2009 at age 22, Blanks began spending considerable time in the major leagues. Unfortunately, he did so for the Padres, who play their home games in the single worst hitters’ park in MLB. Playing half his games at Petco Park, he was inconsistent to say the least.
Also, bouncing between MLB and the minors, he didn’t get as many at-bats each season as you would like for a player with his batting talents. Even so, he hit with power and would take a walk, although he struck out an awful lot. Splitting time between AAA and the majors has also prevented Blanks from putting up season total numbers that would truly impress the casual observer.
The A’s are a team that doesn’t care much about strike outs, so long as the player hits for power and draws walks. Billy Beane’s thinking is almost certainly that Blanks will hit better in the Oakland Coliseum than he did at Petco. Blanks’ .907 career minor league OPS also suggests that he’s a better player than the Padres realized.
I haven’t done the research to support my suspicion that self-confidence plays a huge role in determining who succeeds and who doesn’t at the major league level. What I mean by this is that I suspect that major league players play at such a high level with such a relatively small degree of skill between them that things like park factors, at least at the extreme ends, play a much bigger role than people realize.
It’s very hard to develop young pitchers in Coors Field, Wrigley and the Ballpark at Arlington or to develop young hitters at Petco Park or Seattle’s Safeco Field, because the parks so disadvantage young players and inhibit their ability to realize their ability to succeed at the major league level. Some players have enough mental wherewithall not to let it get into their heads, but some do not.
At some point, I’ll do the reseach to confirm or disprove my theory, but until then my gut feeling is that many talented hitters at the former three parks become better hitters simply because their home parks give them confidence and exactly the opposite for pitchers.
At any rate, the A’s realize that a hitter with talent who hasn’t succeeded in the worst possible hitting environment might just become a better hitter in even a slightly better hitting environment. The A’s acquired Jack Cust from the Padres in 2007 for a box of cracker jacks, and if things break right for the A’s, they might have just done so again.