Right now, Gregor Blanco is on his way to his second above-average year as a key (if underrated) component in a championship outfield — “a dream come true” as he puts it. Just two years ago, though, he didn’t get a single major league plate appearance and found himself in Venezuela without a job. There was a moment, though, that sparked the change. A single decision, about a single body part, and Blanco found himself on the road to where he is now.
You can see the moment in his numbers, really. In his larger sample early years (2008 and 2010), Blanco was a good defender with patience that added value to his teams. In 2011, he had a .201 batting average across two Triple-A teams and was sliding out of baseball. He’d been hearing about his shortcomings — “this guy can do this better, in Atlanta” and “if he could run the bases better, if he could bunt better,” in Kansas city — and free agency was looming.
Then Gregor Blanco decided it was time to get right. He had surgery on his wrist — something in there had been bothering him for a couple years — and he returned home, and to the basics. A lengthy rehab allowed him to “get fast” and “work on all the tools” he always had. And then an MVP season in the Venezuelan leagues showed the Giants that he was worthy of interest. “I found myself again, the player I wanted to be,” said Blanco of that time.
Blanco hasn’t been, and won’t be, a power threat in the traditional sense. He’s hit eight home runs his entire career, and even by other measures his power is below average. But, as he puts it, he can still hit doubles, triples and get extra bases. Especially now that he’s not choking up on the bat. Check him out in 2010 on your right.
“Before I choked up a lot, because of the injury,” he said, “but not any more now that I have my strength.” Blanco also pointed out he is more aggressive now.
It’s quite a change. If all we do is just look at some key numbers before and after his surgery, we can see a sea change in the player’s approach. It’s served him well.
Right now, Blanco is showing the lowest walk rate of his career, but he feels he can do better. The balance between aggressiveness and patience is one that he still needs to develop, he agrees. Consistency at the plate is a goal of his, but he feels he can do it since his mantra is to “always learn from mistakes and try to do better.”
Even at 29, Gregor Blanco thinks his offense can improve. A huge part of that was a decision once upon a time to finally correct a nagging injury, and get to work being the guy he always thought he was. Now? “I feel much better now, I feel more myself, and I can do the things I want to do,” says the Giant outfielder.