Ronel Blanco sets Dominican Winter League scoreless record
We've spent the last couple of days doing a deep dive into the Astros bullpen, evaluating potential additions to fringe candidates. Ronel Blanco is next on the list, and for good reason.
Blanco made his big league debut last season and didn't experience a great deal of success. Blanco appeared in seven games and finished with a 7.11 ERA and 1.89 WHIP.
His minor league stats were somewhat better. In 44 appearances in Sugar Land, Blanco gave up 35 hits and 18 earned runs, good for a 3.63 ERA and 1.2 WHIP. His stats were decent, but probably not enough to unseat Enoli Paredes as the next in line option from AAA in case of injury.
His success outside of the Astros' system speaks volumes. According to Ruben Andujar, Ronel Blanco just set a Winter Dominican League record, completing his 44th consecutive inning without allowing an earned run. His 0.58 WHIP might just be even more impressive. Over 19 innings this season, his 27 strikeouts to five walks are good for a 5.40 strikeout-to-walk ration, the best of his career.
It's not as if Blanco is doing this against no-name talent either. Established big leaguers such as Jorge Alfaro, Aristedes Aquino, Oneil Cruz, Wilmer Difo, Melky Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Hanser Alberto, Miguel Andújar, Jeimer Candelario and Starlin Castro.
If he's to make it back for an extended stay in the bigs, Blanco will need to carry over this success. In his brief stint with Houston last season, he was consistently squared up, allowing a .295 xBA, .549 xSLG and 40% hard hit rate.
As of now, it's likely Blanco is either a AAA depth piece in case of injury or could be floated around the deadline for an upgrade in the lineup. He's a great asset for the Astros in Sugar Land.
If his dominance carries over to Spring Training, he may make some noise in justifying a roster spot. Either way, his offseason accomplishment deserves praise and celebration.