Cincinnati Reds: Alex Blandino could handle shortstop duties in 2021

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 22: Alex Blandino #0 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a runner out after fielding the ball in the seventh inning. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 22: Alex Blandino #0 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a runner out after fielding the ball in the seventh inning. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Why is Alex Blandino being dismissed as the Reds starting shortstop?

C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic recently put out a list of potential shortstops who could start for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021. Among them were in-house candidates Kyle Farmer and José García, former Reds shortstop José Iglesias, and free agents to-be Marcus Semien and Didi Gregorius. Strangely absent from the list is Alex Blandino.

Rosecrans isn’t the only person to have kept Blandino’s name out of the conversation. I haven’t heard too many fans bring up the Stanford alum’s name either. While I don’t consider Blandino to be an elite-level shortstop, he could be a nice stopgap option at the position until García is ready for the big leagues.

I think everyone can agree that José García has the chops to make it at the majors. But, while his glove is certainly major league-ready, his bat is not. In 67 at-bats last season, García looked like a player who’d never played above A-Ball. That’s because he hadn’t. The absence of a minor league season prevented García from getting work at the Double-A level in 2020.

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Alex Blandino, who has major league experience, never made it onto the field last season. Am I the only one who found that odd? Blandino, along with García and Tyler Stephenson, was one of the better players at Goodyear before spring training was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Blandino was hitting .423/.500/.731 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs.

Those are pretty solid numbers. Blandino is also no slouch in the field either. In fact, I’d argue that his glove his better than his bat, though he has spent more time at second base (31 games) than shortstop (11 games) during his first two big league seasons. But Blandino fielded the position well throughout his time in college and as he ascended in the Reds minor leagues.

During Cincinnati’s 2018 season, Alex Blandino got a decent look, playing in 69 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury during a defensive play at second base. Blandino resurfaced near the end of the 2019 season and performed quite well, hitting .250/.420/.361. Blandino appeared more patient at the dish, earning 10 walks in 50 plate appearances.

Now, I’m not advocating that the Cincinnati Reds just hand the starting shortstop job over to Alex Blandino. In fact, I’d argue that of all the in-house candidates, Kyle Farmer has the upper hand. That said, one of Farmer’s best attributes is his versatility, and assigning him to one specific position would require Cincinnati to pursue someone to fill that role of utility player.

Speaking of which, that’s a position that Blandino can fill. Blandino has logged over 100 innings at both second and third base and the 27-year-old has experience playing every infield position should Farmer be tabbed as the Reds starting shortstop in 2021.

I don’t know that upgrading the shortstop position via free agency will be an option for the Cincinnati Reds this offseason. In addition to the team’s pursuit of Trevor Bauer, the Reds are likely to invest between $20M-$25M on those players eligible for arbitration. It’s hard to see Cincinnati making a huge investment in the position with the likely ascension of José García.

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While I think Alex Blandino could be a nice rotational piece with Kyle Farmer in 2021, he’s not the odds-on-favorite to win the starting shortstop job. However, I don’t Reds fans should be so quick to dismiss him either.