Has Gregor Blanco Legitimized Himself as a San Francisco Giants Starter?
Coming into the 2013 season, plenty of San Francisco Giants fans were already trying to predict the yearly trade deadline move that general manager Brian Sabean would make to vault the team over the top and lead them to the playoffs once again. The majority of those fans believed that that move would be for an established left fielder, since neither Gregor Blanco or Andres Torres was fit for an everyday job. There was a concern that the Giants would struggle to replace the offense they had received from left fielder Melky Cabrera in 2012, as he hit .346 with 11 homers while playing in less than two-thirds of the team’s games.
Those fans’ concerns have almost certainly been alleviated by the performance the Giants have received from their left fielders this season. While Torres has re-established himself as an above-average fourth outfielder, highlighted by a .356 batting average at AT&T Park, Blanco has made the best case for everyday playing time. Though he is just over two plate appearances short of being able to qualify for the batting title, if he was a qualifier Blanco’s .277 average would place him fifth among National League left fielders. Considering that many considered Blanco to be San Francisco’s weakest link coming into the season, this is a pretty impressive ranking.
Though his overall numbers last season were respectable, Blanco’s productivity was squeezed into two unbelievable months. He followed up a very forgettable April by catching fire in May, surpassing Angel Pagan as the leadoff hitter, and winning himself a starting outfield spot by hitting .315 for the month. He then proceeded to hit .210 over the next three months and at one point was being regularly passed over for starts by players such as minor league journeyman Justin Christian and rookie Francisco Peguero. However, he found lightning in a bottle again, hitting .291 after Sept. 1, and made himself a starter for the playoff run.
This year, Blanco has been steadily effective throughout the year, though June has been his best month. He hit .265 in April and .270 in May, and is currently hitting .310 through 42 June at-bats. Perhaps most impressive for Blanco, who has hit leadoff throughout June, is that he has a .370 OBP for the month.
Considering Blanco’s consistency this season, it is now highly unlikely that the Giants will need to make a trade or scour the waiver wire for a left fielder. His reliability, plus Andres Torres’ ability to spell him versus lefthanders, means that the team should be able to focus on pitching if they decide they need to make a trade for the stretch run.