He is what he is, a player with some real strengths that are outweighed by real, and major, weaknesses. Blanco can do basically three things: he walks, he runs the bases, and he catches the ball. However, the walks are washed out by Blanco’s high strikeout rate, which prevents him from hitting for a high enough average to have a really strong on-base percentage, and his complete lack of power makes him unusable as an everyday player. Because he throws poorly, the Braves are somewhat reluctant to use him in center, even though it’s really not that big of a deal. Therefore, he’s basically limited to pinch-running and being a defensive replacement in left field, which is exactly the role he played last night in his 2010 debut, running for Hinske and stealing second base, then staying in the game in Hinske’s place in left.
Blanco played most of the time in 2008, splitting time between left and center and more than adequately displaying his gifts (a .366 OBP and 13 stolen bases) and flaws (a .251 BA and .309 SLG, only one homer). Last season was a complete disaster, as he hit only .186 in 48 major league PA and a minor league career-low .228 in Gwinnett. This season, he’s hit .294 (which would be a career high) and posted a .392 OBP, though the slugging percentage is still only .375. He’s also eight for nine in stolen bases.
Blanco’s basically a fifth outfielder, which hasn’t worked too well in recent seasons as the Braves have carried only four outfielders. However, the move of Hinske to left suddenly means that Melky’s the fourth outfielder, which makes Blanco fifth. He’s well suited to the role. As the Braves middle-of-the-order hitters (Chipper, McCann, Glaus, and Hinske) are all painfully slow, there’s a good opportunity for him to serve as a pinch-runner. A use like last night, running late in the game for Hinske (or for Glaus with Hinske moving to first) could add a few runs around the edges for a team that often seems to lose a lot of runs due to poor tactical performance. He can also bunt, if Bobby’s determined to use his limited number of bench players that way.