Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 17

In last year’s draft Cincinnati invested their first four selections on college players including first-round compensation pick Alex Blandino. The Stanford shortstop came out of the gate strong at Billings and earned a trip to Dayton for last month of the season. He looks to prove himself in single A this year and grab a spot in the Reds short term plans next year.

Alex Blandino is a newcomer to this list after arriving in the Cincinnati organization from its second first round pick in last year’s draft, a compensation for losing free agent Shin-soo Choo. Perhaps the Reds the felt they needed more middle infield prospects at the higher levels of their system when they opted for the Stanford shortstop with the 29th overall selection. After signing he started out strong at Billings by slashing a line of .309 AVG/.412 OB/.527 SLG and earning a promotion to Dayton.

Over the last month of the season he acquitted himself well with the Dragons by hitting .261 AVG/.329 OB/.440 SLG with four homers. He started out ablaze in low-A, going 23-68 (.338) with an OBP over .400. His bat then cooled off for a couple of weeks, before finishing 5-15 in the final series of the season. Since his time there was brief he’ll likely return to start the season and if he does the Reds will be looking to promote him to high-A Daytona in the second half.

College players are expected to arrive in the minors with more advanced plate discipline as was the case with Blandino, hence the nice AVG/OB differential. This really showed itself in the Pioneer League where he struck out only two times more than he walked. That was not sustained at the high-A level, but he should have another chance to do it against Midwest League pitching after an overall solid short season professional debut.

Defensively his arm strength has caused some doubts about his ability to stick at shortstop, but that is where all of his action was last year. He did make some errors, but showed decent range. He has plenty of arm and sufficient athleticism to play second and projects enough power to return to third base where he played for the Cardinal.

The 22 year-old Blandino stands 6’0”/190# and bats/throws right-handed. There are some advantages in drafting college players: Their experience against higher level competition makes them easier to project, there’s pressure on them to sign as juniors to avoid negotiating a later contract without an option of returning to college, and older, more polished players are candidates to fast-track up the system. Blandino’s signed at slot value ($1.788 million) and it appears he could be ready for AA one year from now.

Blandino is a low risk/low ceiling prospect with potential to bring plus power to a middle infield position. Brandon Phillips has long been a fixture at second base and is the senior member of the Reds roster. He’s under contract for a few more years, but he’s now 33 years old and his OPS has dropped in each of the past three seasons. At shortstop Zach Cozart looks to retain regular duty for a fourth season. He brings good leather to the position, but at the plate he’s yet to finish a season with a .300 on-base percentage which makes him vulnerable for competition. Newcomer Eugenio Suarez is coming off a rookie season that suggests he could provide that in the upcoming season and best case scenario is that Blandino is ready to join in the mix as early as sometime in 2016.

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