I fully expect Alex Blandino to get a long look at shortstop this springs, and it sounds as if Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell does as well. The team hasn’t committed to a starting shortstop for the 2021 season, but from the sound of things, Blandino will get his opportunities.
The offseason did not go as planned for Cincinnati’s front office. Either the price was too steep for the top free agent shortstops, a trade never materialized, or the team felt comfortable rolling into Goodyear with players they had on the current roster. Whatever the reason, there appears to be an open competition for the the job during spring training.
Alex Blandino has a good shot to be the Reds starting shortstop.
After Andrelton Simmons, Marcus Semien, and Didi Gregorius signed their respective free agent deals this winter, the Cincinnati Reds were left with a conundrum. Roll with their current roster, which doesn’t have a starting-caliber shortstop, or make a trade.
While names like Willy Adames and Amed Rosario have surfaced, the front office has yet to pull the trigger on a potential deal, so the Reds are left with a group of career utility players to take reps at shortstop during spring training.
Among those competing for the job are Kyle Farmer (who until last season hadn’t seen much time at shortstop professionally), Dee Strange-Gordon (who hasn’t played shortstop on a regular basis since 2013), José García (who struggled against major league pitching last season), and Alex Blandino (who didn’t play in the majors last season).
Upon showing up in Goodyear, Arizona yesterday, Reds skipper David Bell was asked about the shortstop position. In reference to former first-round pick Alex Blandino, here’s what Bell had to say to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
"“To his credit, [Blandino] continued to work and did everything he could at the alternate site and on the taxi squad when he came over. He’s put himself in a position to get a really solid look at that position.”"
Are you surprised to hear that Blandino could be the starting at shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021? Honestly, it’s not a shock to me, as Bladino has 60-plus innings fielding the position at the major league level, about 20 fewer than the perceived starter Kyle Farmer.
In fact, in terms of innings played fielding the shortstop position, García has the most on the team (157) over the past two seasons. The bottom line is, when it comes to the shortstop position, there is little-to-no major league experience among the handful of players competing for the spot.
Alex Blandino’s spring will determine his standing with the Reds.
Alex Blandino has one minor league option remaining, so this is very much a make or break season for the 28-year-old. Cincinnati kept Blandino at Prasco Park all last summer despite the right-handed hitting infielder’s solid production at the plate during Cactus League play last spring.
Blandino may be the team’s best option in terms of offensive production from the shortstop position. Unlike Farmer, García, and Strange-Gordon, Blandino has proven to be a very patient hitter, racking up a career on-base percentage of .349 over his professional career.
There’s not much pop in Blandino’s bat, but he can more than hold his own defensively, and he can get on base. Regardless of who takes the field in 2021 as the Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop, it has to be assumed they’ll be hitting in the No. 8 hole. The Reds could do much worse than Alex Blandino as the team’s starting shortstop.