Scouting Padres Prospect: Kyle Blanks

The Padres claimed hulking 300-plus pound Walter Young off waivers in January and it instantly reminded of first base prospect Kyle Blanks – the power of a Norse God and the hefty stature to go with it.

After being named the 2005 Arizona Community College Athletic Player of the year, Kyle Blanks signed with the Padres. He was originally tabbed as a draft-and-follow in the 42nd round of the 2004 MLB Draft.

A towering presence at 6-foot-6, 280-pounds, Blanks is a monster on the diamond and imposing in the batter's box. There were reports that Blanks had ballooned over 290 pounds but the Padres have taken a proactive stance in making sure his weight is somewhat controlled.

"We are doing some things to make sure he doesn't come in here one day at 350," Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development, said.

Blanks began his first professional season with a bang, literally. He notched a double, a homer and six RBI's in his Arizona Rookie League debut. Fourteen games into the year, Blanks had seven homers and 21 RBI's. He would cool considerably as pitchers began to throw him nothing but junk, ending the year with the same seven homers, which led the league, and 30 RBI's in 48 games.

After those 14 games, Blanks had amassed just one walk. As he settled in and began to notice that the pitchers were working around him, his base on balls totals increased. He ended up with 24 walks in his final 34 games and led the league in intentional walks.

It was a "big" adjustment for Blanks. He went from seeing the occasional fastball to a steady diet of off-speed pitches. He suffered through a 1-for-17 stretch that included a four-walk game, the first ever in his career at any level.

Unlike Young, Blanks is also fleet of foot, despite his size. He earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in college for his work around the first base bag. He led the Arizona League in fielding percentage among first basemen at .997 and was in on more double plays than any other player at his position.

When he stole his first base of the year in Arizona, many could imagine the look on the face of the pitcher and catcher. He ended up with three steals in four attempts, showing his athletic nature. And the one time he was thrown out he blamed himself for not sliding.

"He is a big guy; He is Paul Bunyan coming at you," Fuson added.

What makes the Pennsylvania native so intriguing is his colossal power potential. He played the year at 18 years old and still managed to place third in the league with a slugging percentage of .500. Hearing the nicknames "Big Nasty" and "Gigantor" should say enough about his power potential but it is the reason the Padres invested heavily to secure his services.

At the same time, Blanks fashions himself as a player that will hit for average. That comes with effectively handling the off-speed pitches, something he began to adjust to late in the year. A steady diet of junk will await him until he can continually stay off it and make them throw his pitch.

"He is a great player," pitcher and Peoria teammate Geoff Vandel said. "He is a great teammate and has a great attitude. He has a great bat, great power and played well at first base. He helped the team with his attitude because he does what he is supposed to do."

Blanks is in a battle at first base with Daryl Jones as they both position themselves for playing time. He is in an early hitters camp and that could setup where he plays in 2006.

"We have Kyle Blanks who I think in a lot of people's minds passed Daryl Jones," one Padres scout admitted.

But each year is a new one and a prospect must prove his worth every spring.

There is reason to believe his future is bright, pending his yearly weigh-in. If he can stave off the offensive lineman jokes and remain focused, Blanks has as much potential as anyone in the system. With surprising agility, Blanks plays a solid defensive first base but it will be his power and patience that dictates his future.

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