After optioning Taylor Green to AAA on Sunday, the Brewers made a corresponding move today, calling up shortstop Jeff Bianchi from Nashville. Bianchi has split time between Huntsville and Nasvhille this year, hitting .319/.372/.378 in 70 total at-bats.
Bianchi has a pretty interesting backstory: He was a 2nd round pick out of high school in 2005, and started out as a well-regarded prospect (Baseball America ranked him as the 4th-best prospect in the Arizona League and the 5th-best prospect in the Royals’ system in 2006). However, his ascent of the minor-league ladder was derailed by arm injuries, including shoulder surgery in 2006 and a Tommy John procedure in 2010. Bianchi hit reasonably well when he was healthy, but the time he missed left him behind the standard development curve – when the Brewers claimed him off waivers in the 2011-2012 offseason, he was 25 and hadn’t yet reached AAA. However, he’s in the majors now, thanks to solid work in the minors and an almost unprecedented injury stack in Milwaukee’s infield.
Despite the less-than-ideal development path, Bianchi does have some skills that could be of use to a major-league team. Bianchi is reputed to be a solid defensive shortstop, but is by no means a standout at the position. As you can see by his minor-league lines, Bianchi has had a solid year with the bat, hitting for average and walking frequently, but not showing much power. If he can hit enough singles and doubles to keep pitchers honest – it’s easy to see a scenario where Bianchi’s on-base skills erode in the majors after hurlers who don’t respect his power simply throw him strikes – that combination may be enough to become the everyday shortstop in time. Even if he turns out to be a below-average player overall, that’s not the worst thing in the world, especially when the player in question is making the league minimum and cost essentially nothing to acquire. To date, the Brewers have gotten by on far worse.
Like Edwin Maysonet and Cody Ransom before him, Bianchi will likely be viewed as a savior by fans who have had to watch Cesar Izturis daily, but don’t look for him to take the reins at shortstop just yet. According to Ron Roenicke (h/t Adam McCalvy), Bianchi is not going to play every day – he’ll serve as a righty bat off the bench and may see time at multiple infield positions. Roenicke also praised Bianchi’s ability to execute the bunt and hit-and-run, which is just plain frightening.