Jeff Bianchi is getting his first taste of the Big Leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Pennsylvania native was added to the Brewers farm system in January, and over the All-Star break was called up to Milwaukee in a move that sent Taylor Green down to Nashville and also called up pitcher Tyler Thornburg.
So just what are we getting from this move? This is what Baseball America said about Bianchi coming in to last year, when he was still with the Royals organization:
"If it wasn’t for injuries, Bianchi likely would be starting for the Royals, but he has had one completely healthy year in six years of pro ball."
Bianchi has had a tough road through the Minors, but even with all of the injuries he has outperformed his peers. In his struggles with injuries, he fell off the radar after climbing into the top 20 prospects in Kansas City’s system only a few years ago. Now, after eight seasons and finally turning the corner on injuries, it looks like Milwaukee may have found a diamond in the rough.
Bianchi has been a shortstop all his life. He graduated from Lampeter High School in Pennsylvania in 2005 and was drafted straight away by the Kansas City Royals. As a youngster, he was named All-State and a member of the National High School Coaches All-District team. He was the MVP of the USSSA World Series in 2004. He was a highly-touted prospect straight out of high school and he looked to have a short road to the Major Leagues.
Things don’t always work out the way you planned – especially in baseball.
Everything started out great for Bianchi. In 2005 he was a Rookie League All-Star, hitting .414 with 36 RBIs. It looked like the Royals had made a steal, until 2006 when a right shoulder injury limited him to just a dozen a games. He posted a .429/.537/.667 line during those games, by the way.
After that, nothing was the same for him with the Royals organization. He hit just .247 in his first full season in A ball, with 19 doubles, 36 RBIs, and 25 walks – a testament to his continued philosophy of not wasting at-bats. It wasn’t anything flashy, but it was enough to move him up the ranks and give him a shot at Advanced A in Wilmington. He was named a defensive player of the year by his organization.
The next year, 2009, saw him taking reps at both shortstop and second base. It also saw a vast improvement in his numbers. He hit .300 with four homers and 28 runs batted in for Wilmington in 60 games, before being moved to the club’s AA squad in Northwest Arkansas. When he became a member of the Naturals, he hit .315 with five home runs and 42 RBIs. It looked like Bianchi was finally becoming the player they wanted to him to be.
If he truly was that player for the Royals, they would have to wait and see.
In 2010, Jeff Bianchi began his training with a great deal of pain in his right elbow. He had torn a
ligement, and underwent Tommy John surgery before the season even began. He never played a game, a major setback as the Naturals planned to have him move permanently to second base.
In 2011, he played his final season in Northwest Arkansas – it was also his first full season without injury in the Texas League. His numbers dropped significantly, posting only a .259 batting average, his lowest since 2008. In December, the Chicago Cubs took a chance and claimed him off the waiver wire.
One month later, Bianchi was a Brewer. It was a move most Milwaukee fans probably glanced over and moved on from, but Milwaukee saw something in him. What they saw was a player who wasn’t ready to give up on his talent or his shot in the Show.
In 70 games between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville, Bianchi has turned his bat around remarkably. In the Brewers organization, he is hitting .319 with a .751 OPS with 19 RBIs, 13 of them coming with his latest stint with the Nashville Sounds. He can steal bases, hit gap-to-gap, and is a versatile and talented defender.
Will all of this show up when Bianchi gets his shot in the Major League? No one knows for sure, but judging by his career so far it would be a mistake to count him out.