Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Bianchi had a better season than people think. Even though he was used primairly off the bench, and didn’t often light up the box score, the guy impressed me in 2013.
Bianchi, 27, first tasted the major leagues last year with the Milwaukee Brewers but had only 69 at-bats. During his limited time at the plate, Bianchi hit .188 with three home runs and nine runs batted in. But, because he was not yet eligible for arbitration, Bianchi came cheap ($490k) and the Brewers invited him to spring training.
He most likely would have made the 2013 Opening Day roster if not for a groin strain and later a hip injury that not only forced him to miss most of spring training but World Baseball Classic as well. He was on the disabled list at the beginning of the season. After a month of healing, Bianchi replaced Khris Davis on the roster and made his season debut on May 4.
What Bianchi lacks in skills, he makes up for in versatility. The utility man filled Milwaukee’s needs by playing four different positions – 2B, 3B, SS, and LF. He basically served as the Jerry Hairston of 2013.
The Pennsylvania native saw a lot more playing in 2013. When Aramis Ramirez and Jean Segura were on the mend, Bianchi was called upon. As a result, he had a much more productive season at the plate, boasting .237/.272/.348 line. Bianchi only hit one home run in 236 at-bats but his average and on-base percentage rose.
Even though Bianchi improved with the bat, he shined the brightest on defense by posting a 9.6 UZR. UZR or Ultimate Zone Rating puts a run value to defense. The chart below shows the rating system:
According to FanGraphs.com, Bianchi’s UZR is great. In fact, only Carlos Gomez held a higher UZR but that’s not surprising, considering he’s a lock to win a Gold Glove.
Bianchi is a nice player to have on the bench. There’s nothing flashy about him and he’s not overly-talented, but he gets the job done. To me, he’s the most under-appreciated player on the team.
Because of his ability to play multiple positions and his great defensive prowess, expect him back on the Brewers bench in 2014.