I have been going to a lot of minor league baseball games lately, trying to get an eye for players who may be available through trades, and to scout some of the Royals farmhands. We all know the Royals are in a desperate need for a shortstop right now, and I think the organization is getting a good idea who that player might be; Royals 2006 2nd-round pick Jeff Bianchi.
I have seen Bianchi on multiple occasions now this year, and let me tell you, the kid is putting things together in a big, BIG, way. Not only did he tear up pitching at Hi-A Wilmington this year (to the clip of .300 BA/4 HR/28 RBI/12 doubles/2 triples/12 stolen bases versus being caught only twice/and 6 errors: all of this in 60 games) but as you can see he also runs well and - considering he plays at a high-risk defensive position at shortstop - has played good defense.
After being slowed with injuries that have kept him trapped in A-ball the past three years, he's managed to stay healthy the past year and recently earned the call-up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas about a week ago. Impressingly, the jump hasn't slowed him a bit. I was at Saturday night's game in Springdale for another look at Bianchi and he was amazing. After smacking an RBI double in his first at-bat to right center, he followed that with three more hits before blasting a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to propel the Naturals to a 4-3 victory over the Arkansas Travelers.
Before the game I asked Bianchi if he'd noticed how desperate the Royals are for a competent shortstop who can hit. "Yeah, I've noticed they could use some help," he said with a big smile. Then he went out and went 5-for-5 with 3 RBI and the game-winning blast. Not a bad way to record your first Double-A homer.
Also, I am VERY impressed with his defense. He made several nifty plays and completed a couple of nice throws from short. Albeit, only one of the plays he made was particularly difficult - although he did make a pair of nice throws from deep in the hole to record outs. He is doing a tremendous job going with pitches and driving them to the opposite field. At the same time he's also pulling balls that need to be pulled. One of his singles skidded through the left side and the homer went to deep left center. Both balls were center-in on the plate and he wasted little time turning on them.
I'm not an irrational fan who can't grasp the importance of player development, but Bianchi looks ready for Triple-A. He's too good to even be at Double-A right now. Believe me, scouts were taking notice last night.
So far he's 19-for-34 since getting called up with 5 doubles and the homer. He has seven RBI in his first eight games and is hitting .583/.794/1.377. Now I realize that's a very small sample size, but it should open some eyes as the jump from Single-A to Double-A is a sizable leap - especially in the Texas League. He's already faced some of the best pitching the Texas League has to offer and he hasn't skipped a beat. And the Texas League is widely considered one of the best leagues in all the minors. The league is littered with the game's best prospects. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
Keep your eyes on him.