Dairon Blanco was a promising rookie for the Royals in 2023. For a team that was desperate for quality outfield play, he offered above-average offense, defense, and baserunning in 69 (nice) games played.
He will be 31 next year.
He didn’t have a great batting average at .258, but unlike a lot of Royals, he wasn’t completely afraid to take a walk which led to a .324 OBP and he showed plenty of pop with a .194 ISO.
He will be 31 next year.
And let’s not forget about the 24 stolen bases (with 5 caught stealing.) Bobby Witt Jr. wishes he had those wheels!
He will be 31 NEXT YEAR.
There is a reason I keep bringing up his age. If Blanco were 25, there would be legitimate reasons to be excited about him. If he were 27 and the Royals had a pretty solid roster around him, we could be glad for the fourth outfielder who can fill in without embarrassing the team if there’s an injury. But as a 31-year-old on a team that desperately needs to find ways to improve, not maintain - and especially in the outfield - it really doesn’t seem like Blanco has a spot on this roster.
None of this, of course, is Blanco’s fault. And I think, given his position, he deserves a grade of A for being able to contribute to the 2023 Royals in the ways that he did. However, if he is still on the 2024 roster I think that will also be a signal that the Royals still aren’t trying as hard as they must if they actually want to improve. To be clear, Blanco played well enough that he deserves a job somewhere around the league, either for a team that isn’t really trying to win and needs someone to fill a hole or a team that fits the criteria I laid out for him above.
The Yankees, for example, gave 84 games to a 28-year-old Jake Bauers in 2023 and he was a negative value for them. Dairon Blanco doesn’t need to replace any of their starters, but they’d be glad to have him since Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have had difficulties when it comes to playing an entire season. Another Yankee that comes to mind is Aaron Hicks. Hicks got cut by the Yankees but was able to contribute to the league-best Orioles. Blanco would be a much cheaper (and somehow younger) version of similar production now that Hicks is a free agent and the Orioles seem likely to want to keep contending.
The point is that Blanco had a good enough season that the Royals should be able to find a team for whom he is a better fit than they are and make a deal. He’s not going to bring back anything amazing; a mid-inning reliever that the Royals could use to fill out their awful bullpen or a lottery ticket, probably. Still, he deserves a shot to slot into a role that suits him better than any KC has to offer and Kansas City needs to avoid trying to cram square blocks into round holes if they’re going to move toward a more competitive future with any speed.
Statcast does suggest that he might have been playing a little over his head. The advanced metrics think his power was a bit of a mirage because his average exit velocity and barrel rates weren’t very good. But they also suggest that in most home parks, he’d have had twice or even three times as many home runs as had at Kauffman, this year. Also, the speed and glove appear to have absolutely been for real, making his status as a good choice for fourth outfielder on a competitive team stick.
If all else were equal, I’d love to keep Blanco around. Underdogs who steal a lot of bases are almost as much my jam as they are Dayton Moore’s. But all else isn’t equal and the reality is that both the Royals and Blanco will be better off if they part ways this off-season.
How would you grade Dairon Blanco’s season?
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