The Royals announced Thursday that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Dairon Blanco from Triple-A Omaha and placed outfielder Michael A. Taylor on the injured list. Royals skipper Mike Matheny told reporters last night that Taylor was in contact tracing under the league’s health-and-safety protocols, though it’s not clear yet whether he’s tested positive. Regardless, it’ll be Blanco assuming his spot on the roster at least in the short term. Kyle Isbel is in center for the Royals’ series finale against the White Sox today.
The 29-year-old Blanco will be making his big league debut if he gets into a game. Originally signed out of Cuba by the Athletics back in 2017, Blanco was one of two players the Royals received when trading lefty Jake Diekman to Oakland back in 2019. He had a rough go of it in Double-A following that trade, but Blanco has posted solid minor league numbers in 2021 (.277/.350/.441) and so far in 2022 (.263/.381/.442) between the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
Blanco swiped 41 bases in 55 tries last year, and he’s out to a 13-for-13 start in that department so far in 2022. At 29 years of age, he’s older than your standard “prospect,” though he still got a brief mention on FanGraphs’ 2021 rankings, where Eric Longenhagen credited him with 80-grade speed (on the 20-80 scale) and praised his strong exit velocities at the plate. He’s played center field and left field extensively with the Royals but has just one appearance in right.
It should be noted that the Royals did not specify Blanco as a Covid-related “substitute” or “replacement” when announcing they’d selected his contract. Each team’s wording tends to vary a bit on transactions of this nature, but they all typically make specific mention when someone is a pure substitute player. Those players can be sent back to the minor leagues without first passing through waivers. However, the Royals stating that Blanco’s contract has been formally selected ostensibly signals that there’s some permanence behind the move. Assuming Blanco is on the 40-man roster to stay, he’ll give the Royals some additional, optionable outfield depth for the foreseeable future.
As for Taylor, his placement on the Covid list could be due to a positive test, symptoms or continued contact tracing. If he did test positive, health protocols technically call for a 10-day absence, although players can return sooner than that with a pair of negative tests and approval from a joint MLB/MLBPA panel (one appointed medical expert from each party). In 117 plate appearances this season, Taylor is hitting .238/.333/.337 with strong marks in Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average.