First Base - Tony Blanco Jr.
Tony Blanco Jr. was one of the Pirates’ biggest international signings from the 2021-2022 off-season. Blanco Jr. was originally signed as an outfielder, but given his massive body size, the Pirates have already gotten him work in at first base which looks like could be his primary positon moving forward.
Blanco Jr.’s first extended look against professional pitching had it’s ups and downs. Blanco posted some massive exit velocity numbers, and walked at a 10.8% rate. But overall, he only batted .235/.25/.397 with a .349 wOBA, and 92 wRC+ throughout his 157 plate appearances at the Dominican Summer League. Blanco Jr. struck out at a 37.6% rate, which is a bit worrying.
Granted, Blanco is still young. This was only his age-18 season, and he won’t turn 19 until mid-May 2024. There is plenty of time for Blanco Jr. to iron out the flaws in his game, but if he can do that, the offensive potential for Blanco Jr. is off the charts.
Blanco is listed at 6’6”, 245-LBS. He is a teenager, and he is larger than most grown adult professional athletes. Blanco has shown off the raw power that suggests there’s a potential 40 homer batter. But given his Incredible Hulk-like frame and his long swing, there’s going to be some concern as to how his hit tool develops.
Still, if Blanco reaches his potential, the 1B/OF could become one of baseball’s biggest offensive threats. He’s still so young though, so we won’t see him for at least another two years. We will see how he develops, but he will surely be a name to watch over the coming years.
Honorable mentions: Malcom Nunez