Travis Blankenhorn Rediscovers His Stroke
Travis Blankenhorn started at third base on Opening Day for high Class A Fort Myers in 2019. In retrospect, it seems ironic.
Blankenhorn, a 2015 third-rounder from Pottsville (Pa.) High, has played his way off third in the last four years. The 23-year-old manned the position just twice last season, and the Twins believe that’s a good thing.
"He came to us out of high school as a third baseman, but from our perspective, we’ve really come to value versatility as a talent,” farm director Alex Hassan said. "If you can play multiple positions, you protect your team from injury in a lot of ways, and that adds real value to your résumé.
"If there’s a shortcut to the major leagues, that’s probably it.”
Maybe so, but the path to Minnesota is a dead end if you can’t hit. Fortunately, Blankenhorn rediscovered his stroke in 2019 to turn himself into a dangerous hitter after struggling in 2018.
Blankenhorn earned a promotion to Double-A Pensacola just a month into the season, then clubbed 18 homers at his new level and hit .278/.312/.474. The Twins were so impressed they added him to their 40-man roster in November.
"He had a rough year in 2018, but his reaction to it got our attention. He made some adjustments, worked on his swing, put some (suggestions) into action,” Hassan said.
"We saw a different guy last year, a more confident hitter. He put the ball in play more. He’s trying to get a better base under him—see the ball better."
Adding to Blankenhorn's offensive output is his defensive flexibility. He started 65 games at second base for Pensacola, and another 18 in left field.
"We don’t (move players) if they can’t handle it,” Hassan said. "Travis can. It helps him, and it helps us.”
— Caleb Thielbar, a 33-year-old lefthanded reliever who made 109 appearances for the Twins from 2013-15, signed a minor league contract to rejoin the organization in December. Thielbar, a Randolph, Minn., native, has pitched in the Tigers' and Braves' systems over the past four seasons.