The Kansas City Royals have certainly developed a particular approach to building a starting rotation. Players like Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and James Shields were acquired, at least in part, due to their ability to eat innings and save a bullpen. If there is one thing that Joe Blanton was able to do relatively well when healthy, it was to eat innings.
Perhaps it is that ability of Blanton to eat innings, as well as Dayton Moore’s apparent obsession with starting pitchers with a first name beginning with a ‘J,’ that led to the Royals taking a chance on the burly righty. After being released by the Angels last season, and pitching all of 10.1 innings for the Sacramento River Cats, the Royals have signed Blanton to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
According to further Tweets from Heyman, Joe Blanton would receive $1 Million if he was to make the Royals out of Spring Training, with an additional $3 Million possible in incentives. Blanton also has two opt-out clauses, on April 1st and May 15th, should he elect to try his luck in free agency.
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While it seems like a long shot that Blanton would be able to make an impact upon the Royals in any way this season, he is certainly an interesting player to take a chance on. He has been durable for much of his career, and his tendency towards the home run could be mitigated by the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium. He has had solid control and a strikeout to walk rate of 2.64 over his career, so there are a few of the signs that the Royals seem to look for.
However, if Dave Eiland can turn around Joe Blanton the same way he did with Jeremy Guthrie, he would be a wizard on the Harry Potter level. Blanton has essentially performed at the level of a fifth starter for much of his career, with a 4.51 ERA and a 1.360 WHiP. Blanton has, in fact, been just about replacement level for most of his career, posting an ERA+ of 92.
Blanton is a nice pitcher to have as minor league depth and as a callup in case of injury. If he can somehow find a way to replicate his rookie season, when he was 12-12 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.217 WHiP, he would certainly be a tremendous bargain. While the Royals have had success with homer prone fly ball pitchers, Blanton may be beyond even their skills at resurrecting a career.
If Joe Blanton is a significant part of the Royals plans for the 2015 season, then something may have gone horrifically awry. However, he is still worth taking a look at in Spring Training. Who knows – maybe he can surprise us all.