Padres Prospect Interview: Kyle Blanks

Lake Elsinore, CA: The first thing anyone notices about Kyle Blanks is that he is big. Not just tall – big, huge, gargantuan; pick any word. Blanks, 20, is not only a full head taller than most of his teammates, but also about twice their width with hands that make bats appear as long toothpicks.

The Padres drafted Blanks in the 42nd round in 2004 as a draft-and-follow. Signing him before the 2005 draft out of Yavapai Junior College in Arizona, Blanks instantly caught everyone's attention when he got off to a hot start in the Arizona League hitting five home runs in his first seven games.

Last year Blanks had a very good season in Fort Wayne at 19, hitting .292/.382/.455, but didn't really demonstrate the power potential that many believed he has with only 30 extra base hits, 10 of which were home runs, and missing the last month of the season with a leg injury.

This year things have been different. The first baseman/DH already has 55 extra base hits, 22 of them have gone over the wall. The big first baseman has become one of the most feared hitters in the California League, with a line of .305/.385/.559 and hitting .533 with three grand slams with the bases loaded.

The biggest concern with Blanks, 20, is going to be his ability to stay in shape and stay fresh for the whole season. His numbers before the all star break are .335/.405/.604, afterwards .261/.355/.491.

Last year when I spoke to you in Fort Wayne you seemed to be fighting the stereotype that just because you are a big guy doesn't mean that you're always going to hit the ball out of the park. This year you really are hitting the ball out of the park. You have more extra-base hits this year than you have in the past two years of your career. What has changed?

Kyle Blanks: Honestly, I guess just everything has come together. I haven't been trying to hit home runs. My swing and getting stronger has helped me out.

You look like you are in better shape this year. What have you been doing to improve you're conditioning?

Kyle Blanks: In this off-season I hit it real hard. I'm much further along now in my conditioning that where I was last year.

So what are you trying to do in your training?

Kyle Blanks: Mainly just flexibility, conditioning and trying to maintain where I am at.

If you go back to your approach at the plate, whenever I've seen you play you've always taken quite a few pitches. Is it a case this year that you are recognizing pitches a little better and becoming more aggressive in hitter's counts?

Kyle Blanks: In certain 2-0 counts and other hitter's counts I do gear up a bit more. But you still have to be careful and not swing as hard as you can, that is when you start to tense up, get locked up and screw yourself up. The key is to make solid contact, if you do that the ball will go.

Since this is your second full season league could you're better performance also be attributed to knowing what it takes to play around 140 games?

Kyle Blanks: I was out a little last year, but this year I have a real good feel for what I need to do. You can't blow it out every day, you have to pace yourself, get your rest as it comes to you.

Whenever we get questions about you the first thing that comes to mind how athletic you are for someone your size. Obviously you're trying to become a major league player and the more positions you can play the better chance that you have. Have you ever asked to play any positions other than first base?

Kyle Blanks: I wouldn't really know. I'll play anywhere they put me if given a chance.

What has been you're biggest improvement from last year in the Midwest League to this year?

Kyle Blanks: I think a little of everything. I've taken the parts of my game that revolve around hitting up another notch; patience, power and recognizing pitches started to come together.

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