Cincinnati Reds: 3 under-the-radar players who’ll make an impact in 2021

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Jose De Leon #87 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Jose De Leon #87 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds shortstop Alex Blandino (0) fields a ground ball in the second inning of an intrasquad scrimmage.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Alex Blandino (0) fields a ground ball in the second inning of an intrasquad scrimmage. /

3. Alex Blandino, Reds infielder

I struggled to find a position player that most fans might be sleeping on, but I think Alex Blandino has an outside chance to make the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. While most folks are looking to Kyle Farmer, Dee Strange-Gordon, and Kyle Holder to be the team’s starting shortstop. don’t forget about Blandino.

While I still think that we’re likely to see a combination of Farmer and Strange-Gordon platooning at shortstop this season, that leaves an opening for the Reds utility role. Should the Reds find a true shortstop at some point this spring, then the duo of Farmer and Strange-Gordon could fill that role. If not, Blandino could fill in nicely.

Don’t forget that Alex Blandino is a former first-round pick and a versatile infielder who’s capable of playing all four positions on the infield dirt. Blandino is a solid, yet unspectacular player who, unlike Farmer and Strange-Gordon, has a keen eye at the dish.

Alex Blandino is not a power-hitter, and that’s okay. The Reds have more than enough power bats in their lineup. What they need is a couple hitters who can just get on base. That’s something that Blandino does quite well.

The 28-year-old has a career on-base percentage of .349. Farmer’s OBP is sitting at .297 for his career and Strange-Gordon has an on-base percentage of .311 over the past five seasons. Since 2018, Strange-Gordon’s OBP has dropped to .293. If the Cincinnati Reds are looking for an inexpensive shortstop who plays adequate defense and gets on base, perhaps Blandino is their guy.

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Alex Blandino has one minor-league option remaining, and I expect the California native to begin the season at Triple-A Louisville. However, if the combination of Kyle Farmer and Dee Strange-Gordon are not getting the job done come June, I think we’ll see Blandino get his chance.