A good portion of the Blue Jays’ offseason was focused on finding infield help, both to replace the departing Marcus Semien and perhaps to create an avenue for Cavan Biggio to move back from third base to second base. Defensive metrics weren’t particularly fond of Biggio’s work at third base, but he has generally solid marks in more than 1000 innings at second.
The Jays indeed found a left-side upgrade in the form of Matt Chapman, who’ll not only serve as a defensive improvement over Biggio at third base but will also help to offset shortstop Bo Bichette’s below-average range. Chapman’s addition looked to move Biggio back to second base, at least as the larger half of a platoon with Santiago Espinal, but as Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling writes, it’s Espinal who looks to have seized the full-time job at the position.
Espinal, 27, is hitting .268/.333/.464 (128 wRC+) and, as importantly, has already posted sizable plus marks in Defensive Runs Saved (3) and Outs Above Average (3) through just 135 innings at second base. It’s still just 63 plate appearances, but Espinal has solid walk (7.9%, slightly below average) and strikeout (22.2%, slightly better than average) rates thus far in addition to a huge 48.8% hard-hit rate to begin the season.
Espinal’s play alone would likely have boosted the size of his role, but Biggio’s placement on the Covid-related injured list yesterday could further open the door, at least in the short-term, for Espinal to continue impressing. The Jays didn’t announce that Biggio had tested positive, though GM Ross Atkins told reporters that he’s been exhibiting potential symptoms (Twitter link via TSN’s Scott Mitchell).
Atkins also provided some updates on a pair of injured Jays, noting that slugging right fielder Teoscar Hernandez, who’s on the injured list with an oblique strain, could progress to live batting practice within a few days’ time. Hernandez was placed on the injured list back on April 14, and the Jays have felt his absence. Offseason acquisitions Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer have been pressed into larger roles, but neither has produced at the plate. Tapia is hitting .236/.232/.327 in 58 plate appearances, while Zimmer is just 2-for-22 with one walk and 10 punchouts. Both Tapia and Zimmer have connected on a home run, but that doesn’t offset their general dearth of production.
Catcher Danny Jansen, per Atkins, is behind Hernandez and isn’t yet ready to swing a bat. Jansen homered twice in eight plate appearances before going down with an oblique strain of his own back on April 11. In his stead, the Jays have gotten a solid OBP out of Alejandro Kirk and a massive .306/.324/.611 output in 37 plate appearances from trade pickup Zack Collins. While Collins’ 35.7% strikeout rate portends a good bit of regression, he’s been productive enough for now that Toronto has even given him five starts at designated hitter.
On the pitching side of things, lefty Hyun Jin Ryu is slated for a live bullpen session this week that’ll determine his next steps (Twitter link from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi). He’s currently dealing with a forearm injury. Righty Nate Pearson, currently out with a bout of mononucleosis, is slated to throw to hitters this weekend and could go on a rehab assignment next week. Atkins noted that Pearson may be ticketed for a “bulky” role, suggesting a multi-inning relief assignment once he’s back on the roster (link via MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson).
Still just 25 years old, Pearson isn’t far removed from ranking as the top-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the game. The former first-rounder has electric stuff, evidenced by a fastball that averaged 97.7 mph in last year’s tiny sample of 15 big league innings. However, he’s been limited by elbow and groin injuries since making his 2020 debut, and Pearson also underwent offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia.
With just 45 2/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors combined last season, plus 18 innings in 2020 (and some work at the Jays’ alternate training site), Pearson likely wouldn’t be relied upon to work a traditional starter’s slate of innings anyhow. The hope for the long term is surely that he’s able to eventually realize his top-of-the-rotation potential, but a hybrid role seems more prudent at this time, given the limited workloads in recent seasons. Pearson could yet make some starts this season, but with Ryu, Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, Yusei Kikuchi and swingman Ross Stripling all on the big league roster, plus Anthony Kay and Thomas Hatch in Triple-A but on the 40-man roster, the Jays have the depth to more strategically build Pearson up for 2023 and beyond.
Methinks someone is going to get a good deal on Biggio via trade.
I think they put him in AAA first and see if he can sort himself out before selling low
Part of a package for Montas at the deadline
Why all the hate for Tapia in this piece? He’s actually a really good find and fit for Toronto.
Who’s hating? He’s a perfectly fine 4th OF.
I hate Zimmer. He looks completely overmatched at the plate.
Jays are a juggernaut this year. They’re going to be a force for years to come. I really wanted Chapman (Matt) for the Yankees because he’s just an awesome player to watch field the ball. He’s also showing off his power at Roger’s Stadium…
On the pitching side, doesn’t look like they missed a beat by losing Ray & acquiring Gausman who’s repeating his performance from last season so far.
What an exciting time for the Jays & their fans, man. Really fun team to watch. They remind me of the ‘17 Yankees in certain ways.
You Can Put It In The Books
The Blue Jays are better.. and that’s without cheating like that Yankees team did!
That was completely unnecessary. He comes here to compliment the Jays and you choose to take a shot at him? Not cool.
I agree. The Yanks are a team that feels like they could either fall apart or and up winning 95 games or more. This Bluejays team feels like it’s on a mission and have been really good. There has been some good luck involved as well. This year feels like the 1985 season. I believe that was the year the Jays win 101 and the Yankees won 97. The Jays lost to KC in the ALCS after leading them by tree games. Hopefully this year they go all the way
The offense really hasn’t gotten going yet at all, key contributors like Kirk, Bichette and Teo have scuffled or been hurt out the gate.
They are still finding ways to win though, only thing that concerns me is the over working of the back end of the pen with all these close stressful games. Hopefully Pearson can help with that, the offense waking up will also help too.
Overall though, honestly one of the most exciting teams in baseball, they are so fun to watch and cheer for.
They’re 8th in runs scored, 1st in HRs, so their offense has to be going somewhat.
15th in OBP and bottom 5 with RISP, 8th in runs scored is not a terrible but not where they should/could be.
They are barely scratching the surface, but they are getting some key contributions from part time players (like collins) which will probably coincide with bichette, teo and Chapman getting going.
They need to move Bo out of the 2 hole though, I think he’ll turn it around but man he has some uncompetitive ABs
Oh, yeah, I totally agree. They’re going to be #1 in most, if not all, of those categories by the end. Where would you put Bichette?
I just move him down, maybe 5th or 6th, get some pressure off. He’s down 0-2 before he steps in the box.
I’d move Vlad in to 2, Lourdes 3rd and collins vs RHP 4th for now until Teo comes back.
Your yanks pitching staff is off to a really hot start, that bullpen is insane.
Yeah, I don’t know what they do in our ‘pen but it works. It’s insane man.
I watch Vlad’s 3-HR game too. It was painful. He’s just ridiculous. The hype for that guy is for real.
While Vlad has some impressive numbers, hitting with risp has not been one of them. For that lineup, and his skill, he should be averaging a rbi/HR ratio of 3. Until he manages to do that, he will be somewhat disappointing to me.
That’s pretty wild.
Do you think that he can’t hit with runners on or the more likely scenario that pitchers are more careful with him with runners on and he ends up getting less to hit in the zone.
His % of pitches in the zone is pretty low this year so far. He probably had one of the best offensive years as a 22 year old ever, maybe you’ll just always be disappointed ?
Stymee: That’s interesting to me because I haven’t looked at those numbers, so thanks for that info.
From watching him hit though I am thoroughly impressed. His hitting maturity, especially at his age, is really advanced. I also noticed some of the types of pitches the guy hits and it baffles me. When you look at his father’s hitting it makes more sense because Senior could hit anything that moves.
But his swing… it’s just so advanced in comparison with so many other players’ techniques. So, I do get your point about the RISP, but that’ll come around. Also, Dusty brings up a good point too – who in the world is going to pitch to that guy when he’s going to multiply the total? I wouldn’t want to.
That is the fun thing to thank about as a Jays Fan. With Bo/Kirk really rolling yet and Teo/Jansen out how good will the offense be with those 4 bats clicking on all cylinders. I LOVE the fact they have learned to win the close games that will be a big big factor in their success this year.
As for the Vlad comment from the other poster, hard to hit with runners on when pitchers want nothing to do with him. Having both Gurriel and Teo behind him will help a bunch with that.
Offense around the league is down do to a combination of players still being in spring training mode/league wide use of humidors.
The pitching has been great but the offense has yet to get going. The fact that they are 12-6 and have mostly played good teams so far is a good sign.
John Rocker Fan Club
Toronto will be the team to beat once the offense starts clicking. Now call me a conspiracy theorist but I have a hunch once the weather starts “heating up” MLB will switch the balls back to the juiced ones for an offense explosion which will only boost Toronto’s offensive output.
I thought that was a typo. How can tapia possibly have a lower OBP than batting average?
John Rocker Fan Club
It’s rare, but requires having almost no walks/times hit by pitch, with a relatively higher number of sacrifice flies.
This is one of those times where the eye test doesn’t match the numbers. Tapia has seemed much better because he has been great in clutch situations. He is like Espinal that way as well. Very timely hitting.
I wonder if the Blue Jay fans threw beer cans at the Red Sox outfielders after their come from behind victory? Oh wait, they’re not classless dung like the fans in New York. So Toronto wins and their fans don’t defecate on the game of baseball? What a concept. Good for them.
Well….we aren’t saints. A fan did throw a beer can at an outfielder during the wild card playoff game in 2017. It was one stupid fan though and he got 12 months probation and a lifetime ban.