JOE BLANTON, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: December 11, 1980
Drafted: 1st Round, 24th Overall, 2002 (Athletics)
How Acquired: Trade (from Royals for cash)
College: University of Kentucky
Agent: CAA Sports
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Blanton was a part of the Oakland Athletics’ “Moneyball draft;” in fact, along with Nick Swisher, he was the only successful part of it. He quickly became the epitome of the “innings eater,” posting over 30 starts for five straight seasons and 28 or more for seven. He almost invariably gave up a lot of hits, walked few batters, and didn’t strike out many. His K rate did increase in his last few years, as did his HR rate. He’s been a groundball pitcher most of the time and has been slightly better against left-handed batters over the course of his career. Blanton throws the standard four-pitch mix, with fastball velocity that’s been remarkably consistent, between 89 and 90 nearly every year, bumping up to about 91 when he pitches in relief. He’s a terrible hitter, with a .108 average and no extra base hits in 213 career at-bats. The Pirates acquired him from the Royals for cash the day before the 2015 trade deadline.
Blanton pitched well in a brief stint in short season ball, then made a briefer appearance in the California League. Baseball America listed him as Oakland’s ninth best prospect after the season.
A little surprisingly, the A’s sent Blanton to low A for most of the season. He dominated there and continued to do so in a seven-game stint in AA, showing outstanding control throughout. BA rated him the team’s second best prospect after the season.
Blanton had a good but not great year in the extreme hitting environment of the Pacific Coast League, good enough that BA put him at #43 on their top 100 prospect list after the season. He continued to show great control. Oakland called him up in mid-September, but he made just three relief appearances.
Blanton spent the season in the Oakland rotation, making 33 starts. He benefited from a low BABIP of .248, resulting in an ERA that was a lot lower than his xFIP of 4.58. He didn’t miss a lot of bats.
Blanton suffered a lot of BABIP regression, increasing all the way to .335. He had a low HR/9 of 0.79, which probably accounts for his xFIP increasing to 4.83.
Blanton’s BABIP finally settled in at .299 and he had a very solid year, probably the best of his career. He led the AL in starts (34) and also hits allowed (240). He walked very few hitters and also allowed few HRs, with a 0.63 HR/9.
Blanton wasn’t as effective as the previous year — apart from the ERA, his xFIP jumped from 3.93 to 4.64. He made 20 starts with the A’s, then 13 more with the Phillies after being sent over in a deadline deal.
The Phillies got 31 starts from Blanton. He had more or less a standard Blanton season, except he suddenly started striking out a lot more hitters and he also started having gopher ball problems, with a HR/9 of 1.4. The move to the Phillies’ home park probably contributed to the problem, although his home/road split was minimal.
Blanton missed time early in the season with a strained oblique, but still made 28 starts for the Phillies. He continued to post a higher K rate, along with the same 1.4 HR/9. If you go by xFIP, he was much more effective than his ERA indicates, posting a 3.87 mark.
Blanton was in and out of the rotation early in the season with elbow issues and eventually missed four months, starting in mid-May, with inflammation.
With the Phillies, Blanton continued much as he had the previous year, including a career-high K/9 and HR/9 (1.5). His xFIP of 3.38 was far better than his ERA. In mid-August, the Phillies sent him to the Dodgers in a waiver deal. He continued pretty much the same, with a lower K/9 of 1.1, possibly due to getting out of Citizens Bank Ballpark, and with an xFIP (3.41) that remained far below his ERA. He became a free agent after the season and the Angels signed him to a very questionable two-year contract.
Blanton struggled with the Angels, with opponents battering him for a .314 average and two longballs every nine innings. The Angels finally removed him from the rotation in late July and he pitched sporadically in relief the rest of the year.
Despite his having a year left on his contract, the Angels released Blanton late in spring training. Oakland signed him to a minor league deal a few days later, but after two starts for them in AAA he announced his retirement.
After working out over the off-season with Zach Duke, Blanton decided to try a comeback. The Royals signed him to a minor league deal, with a $1M salary in the event they called him up. In mid-May they did just that and he got into 11 games as a reliever while also making four starts. He had an ERA of 5.30 as a starter and 2.74 as a reliever, with similar splits in his peripherals. His BB and K rates were very good. In late July, though, the Royals designated Blanton for assignment. They sent him to the Pirates for cash the next day. The move seemed surprising at the time, given that Blanton was effectively replacing Vance Worley, who appeared to be very similar only younger. As it turned out, Blanton was brilliant with the Pirates. Unlike many relievers’ W/L records, his 5-0 record with the Pirates accurately reflects his pitching in a number of close games.
Blanton will be a free agent after the season. The Pirates undoubtedly would love to bring him back, but whether he’d sign for an amount they’d find acceptable is hard to say.
2015: $1,000,000 (with performance bonuses including $0.15M each for 95, 110 and 125 IP)
|Signing Bonus: $1,400,000
MiLB Debut: 2002
MLB Debut: 9/21/2004
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2015
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/18/2004
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 9.016
|June 4, 2002: Drafted in the 1st round, 24th overall, by the Oakland Athletics; signed on July 20.
September 18, 2004: Contract purchased by the Oakland Athletics.
July 18, 2008: Traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Philadelphia Phillies for Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer.
August 16, 2012: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ryan O’Sullivan.
November 3, 2012: Became a free agent.
December 12, 2012: Signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels.
March 26, 2012: Released by the Los Angeles Angels.
March 31, 2013: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Oakland Athletics.
April 15, 2014: Released by the Oakland Athletics.
February 13, 2015: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Kansas City Royals.
May 16, 2015: Called up by the Kansas City Royals.
July 28, 2015: Designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals.
July 29, 2015: Traded by the Kansas City Royals to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash.