Spring Training has taken a backseat to large sporting events in the month of March. However, there are certain players that will always take advantage of their opportunities in the Spring, and Ronel Blanco of the Astros is certainly one of them.
A strong Spring Training has provided Blanco an opportunity to crack the Astros’ Opening Day roster. The 29-year-old righty has shined, tossing a team-high 14.0 innings while surrendering just a single run. Blanco has made two starts, and in his first one, he went 3.1 innings, allowing just three hits with five strikeouts.
The Dominican Republic product has started just 21 games across six seasons in the minors. However, outside of the established rotation of Valdez, Javier, Garcia, Urquidy, Brown, and the now-injured McCullers, the number of starting options is thin.
Blanco caught the eyes of some after a dominant run in the Dominican winter league. As a reliever, he allowed just seven hits and zero earned runs over 20 innings of work. Before the excellent winter, Blanco experienced a short-lived stint in the majors with little production. Although a change of roles could allow for Blanco to include more of his secondary pitches, as just two pitches registered nearly 90 percent of his 120 major league pitches.
The righty utilizes a four-seamer, slider, changeup, and curveball. The fastball averages 95 mph and with Blanco’s 94th percentile extension according to Statcast gets on to hitters quickly. QOP Baseball pitch quality rated the fastball at 5.13, making it above great quality. The secondaries are more of a mystery, but the slider and curve appear to be the best of the bunch.
The slider in particular rates in the top-14 percentile for velocity and just misses out on the top-25 percentile for location, a key development from a year ago when it was bottom-20th percentile for location.
Regardless of whether Blanco ends up in the rotation or bullpen, this Spring has proved he belongs.
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Featured Photo: MiLB.com