Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers – #14 Jeff Bianchi

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Two weeks.

Fourteen days.

Roughly 336 hours.

It’ll be Opening Day before we know it and as such we need to begin to finalize our preparations. The Brewers have begun doing so as they announced a cut today. As a result, I have one less profile to write, though you can still expect something with two days to go.

JeffBianchi

Today though we are 14 days away from Opening Day and April 1st and I am profiling…

Jeff Bianchi.

The story of Jeffrey Thomas Bianchi (pronounced: “be-YAIN-kee”) is all too common in baseball. Good defender, capable bat, flashes of power, could reach the show with some luck … … injury derailment, setbacks, releases, second chance, third chance.

Bianchi has had a host of injuries throughout his professional career after being selected in the second round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of high school by the Kansas City Royals. Bianchi was no slouch. He was a capable shortstop defensively with projectability to being a plus defender who should have hit enough to contribute at the plate as well. He was set back though at different times. He had relatively minor injuries along the way like an ankle and a hamstring all the way to major surgeries including shoulder surgery in 2006 and Tommy John surgery in 2010. Add to that a groin strain this spring as a Brewer, but even without it you could argue that he’s more than just “unlucky” at this point.

Yes, the story is the same though the particulars often change. In short, not everybody who “should” reach the Major Leagues even comes close let alone reaches The Show.

The final chapter is usually one of “retired due to injury”. Normally a chapter in a prospect’s novel isn’t “Persevered and eventually realized the goal of reaching the big leagues”, but that’s exactly what happened with Bianchi.

First though, let’s go over how the Brewers even got him in the first place. Bianchi was designated for assignment by the Royals at the end of November in 2011 and was, at the time, claimed by the Chicago Cubs. A month later though, the Cubs needed the 40-man roster spot and exposed Bianchi to waivers once again. This time he reached the Brewers who were awarded his services in January of 2012. The Brewers snuck Bianchi through an outrighting which allowed them to keep his services but remove him from the 40-man roster. That happened in mid-March.

Bianchi, then on a minor-league deal, had his contract purchased by the Brewers over the All-Star break last year. He was hitting .305 for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds at the time of his promotion. What made even more sense about the move at the time was how poorly the other options at shortstop had played for the Brewers after Alex Gonzalez went down with his season-ending ACL tear.

After coming in and not safely reaching base once in his first 12 plate appearances, Bianchi was optioned back to the minors on July 26th. Bianchi would yo-yo twice in August before finally settling in for the rest of the year. He played solid defense but only hit .188/.230/.348 in his admittedly small sample size of 76 plate appearances. He walked just four times and struck out 13 times, but was able to hit three home runs and drive in nine runs.

Bianchi is now out of options. It remains to be seen how the bench will shake out, especially since Bianchi has missed as much time as he has this spring. He’s only received 17 turns at the plate in Cactus League action and, for what it’s worth, is hitting .235/.235/.471 in them. If Bianchi heads north with the Brewers in 10 days it will likely be more for his still developing defensive versatility. A natural shortstop, Bianchi played both second and third last season. His primary competition so far this spring for that role have been Donnie Murphy (who plays the same defensive positions) and, to a lesser extent, Taylor Green who does not play shortstop but very well could be platooning over at first base primarily until Corey Hart returns from off-season knee surgery.

He’s shown throughout his minor-league career that he’s got talent, but for Bianchi to contribute the way that this team needs him to, he’ll have to be plus defensively and hold his own in pinch-hitting situations. Something tells me that Bianchi has the leg up on Murphy as he’s already on the 40-man roster plus Murphy isn’t exactly wowing with the bat right now either.

The days are running out for someone to separate himself from the other. Then again, as the non-roster invitee, the burden really is on Murphy to outperform Bianchi. If all things are equal, the Brewers would have no reason to expose Bianchi to waivers to clear a 40-man roster spot for Murphy. Not that you would want to win a job that way, but a job’s a job.

For Bianchi though the biggest hindrance is his missed time. He needs to round into form soon though in order to be relied on by Ron Roenicke come April 1st.

If there’s anything that Bianchi ha’s proven at all, it’s that he’ll stick with it.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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