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Gregor Blanco

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Gregor Miguel Blanco Pedraza

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[edit] Biographical Information

Outfielder Gregor Blanco was the first player to make his debut in 2008 when he was used as a pinch runner for Brayan Pena in the 8th inning on Opening Day by the Atlanta Braves.

Blanco was signed by scout Rolando Petit for the Atlanta Braves in 2000. He debuted as a pro in 2001 in the Dominican Summer League and hit .330/.422/.451 with 10 triples in 215 AB and 21 steals in 32 tries (the 2008 Braves Media Guide says it was the DSL Braves 1, the 2002 Baseball Almanac and 2005 BA Prospect Handbook says it was the DSL Braves 2). In 2002, Gregor batted .271/.392/.385 for the Macon Braves. The teenager legged out 9 triples, drew 85 walks, scored 87 runs and stole 40 bags in 56 attempts.

Blanco hit .271/.357/.375 for the 2003 Myrtle Beach Pelicans with 7 triples. He stole 34 bases but was caught 16 times. He led the South Atlantic League with 114 strikeouts. Returning to Myrtle Beach in 2004, he responded with a batting line of .266/.339/.401 with a SAL-leading nine triples. He stole 25 bases while only being nabbed nine times. Baseball America rated him as the best defensive outfielder in the SAL.

In 2005, the Venezuelan outfielder batted .252/.367/.384 for the Mississippi Braves. He had 12 triples and 73 walks. He stole 28 bases in 40 tries. He had the first hit, first triple and first run in team history on April 7. He led the Southern League and Braves farmhands in three-baggers that season. He also led Braves minor leaguers in walks. He hit .313 for the Tiburones de La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Blanco produced at a .287/.397/.375 in 66 games for Mississippi in 2006 before being promoted to the Richmond Braves. He hit .294/.408/.346 in 73 contests at AAA. Overall, he had 88 runs, 151 hits and 31 steals in 46 tries. He led Braves farmhands in hits and runs. In winter play, he batted .313 for the Tiburones. In the 2007 Caribbean Series, Blanco played for the Tigres de Aragua. He had the final catch in a 18-inning loss that was the longest game in Caribbean Series history.

Blanco continued to get one base well for Richmond in 2007 with a .282/.369/.362 batting line. He scored 81 runs and stole 23 bases, but was thrown out running 18 bases. He led the International League in runs scored and times caught stealing and led Richmond in walks (63), hits (131), runs and triples. He hit .345 for the Tiburones that winter to finish second in the league behind José Castillo. He was second to Omar Infante with 50 runs and tied for 4th with 6 steals.

Blanco spent the entire 2008 season with the Braves after his debut on Opening Day. He played 144 games split between left field and center field and put up a batting line of .251/.366/.309. The most impressive part of his game was his ability to draw 74 walks in spite of a low batting average and a lack of power. He scored 52 runs and stole 13 bases while playing solid defense in the outfield. He was added to the Venezuelan national team's roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he split center field duties with Endy Chavez. However, back with the Braves in 2009, he hardly got to play, going 8 for 43 (.186) in 24 games. Instead, he played 90 games for the AAA Gwinnett Braves, hitting .228 with only 2 homers. After that poor performance, he was back with Gwinnett in 2010, where he hit .286 in 44 games. He returned to Atlanta for 36 games and hit .310. On July 31st, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals with Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins in return for veterans Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. He spent the remainder of the year in Kansas City, hitting .274 in 49 games and playing almost regularly in center field.

While it looked like Blanco had found a home with the Royals, he failed to make the team out of spring training in 2011 and was sent down to the Omaha Storm Chasers, where he did not help his cause with a .196 average in 23 games. On May 8th, the Royals sent him away to the Washington Nationals and he spent the remainder of the year as a bench player with the Syracuse Chiefs where he hit .203 in 51 games, not nearly enough to earn a call-up to the big club. His career was now at a crossroad, with a risk of washing out of organized baseball altogether if he did not quickly find his hitting stroke again. He signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants and it turned out to be a perfect fit. He made the team as a back-up outfielder in 2012, getting to play all three outfield positions due to injuries and the struggles of RF Hunter Pence. When LF Melky Cabrera was suspended in ignominy for violating Major League Baseball's PED policy on August 15th, Blanco took over as the full-time leftfielder. He ended up playing 141 games, the most since his rookie season, and hit .244 with 14 doubles, 5 triples and 5 homers, scoring 56 runs and stealing 26 bases. His OPS+ was only 95, but with his speed and very good defense, he was a valuable contributor to the Giants' NL West title. He went 4 for 14 with a double and a homer in the NLDS when the Giants defeated the Cincinnati Reds in 5 games, then 4 for 22 with a double and triple in the NLCS win over the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a hero in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series against the Detroit Tigers on October 25th, when he made a great defensive play in the 2nd, throwing out Prince Fielder at home in the 2nd inning, and then laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line for a key hit as the Giants scored the game's first run in the bottom of the 7th. Those two plays were central to San Francisco's 2-0 win. He was again at the center of things in Game 3 two days later: with Hunter Pence, on third base, he tripled off Anibal Sanchez in the 2nd inning to drive in the game's first run, then scored the second on Brandon Crawford's two-out single; for good measure, he made a great catch in foul territory in left field to retire Jhonny Peralta as he led off the 9th inning. The Giants also on that game by a 2-0 score.

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