Blue Jays: An argument for Cavan Biggio as the leadoff hitter

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Cavan Biggio #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on after grounding out against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 19, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Cavan Biggio #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on after grounding out against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 19, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays will likely have Bo Bichette as their leadoff hitter this season, but there’s a solid argument for flipping him with Cavan Biggio.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was complaining that the Blue Jays hadn’t had an effective leadoff hitter in a long time. Now I would argue that they have two very solid choices.

The obvious leadoff candidate for the Blue Jays in 2020 would be Bo Bichette, who very effective in the role as a rookie last season. The 21-year-old slashed an impressive .311/.358/.571 with 11 home runs, 18 doubles, and 21 RBI in 196 at-bats. If the Charlie Montoyo slotted him at the top of the lineup again, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. However, I can’t help but wonder if the team might be better off using Cavan Biggio as the leadoff man.

Biggio didn’t take the league by storm in the way that his keystone mate was able to, but he was still very impressive in his own rookie season. He finished up by slashing .234/.364/.429 with 16 home runs, 17 doubles, and 48 RBI over 354 at-bats. He was also a perfect 14-14 on stolen base attempts, and earning a healthy 2.8 bWAR rating for the year.

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There are a few reasons I think Montoyo and the Blue Jays should consider leading off with Biggio, even if his batting average could use some work. First, I think that number will improve as he continues to gain experience at the highest level. More importantly, he’s shown an elite eye at the plate already, leading to that impressive .364 on-base percentage, and getting on base is the most important skill in that role.

That’s the type of OBP territory you look for when choosing someone to lead things off, and there’s a very real chance that Biggio could see it improve in his second year, especially if he can bring up his batting average. He has the ability to work a count, showing his teammates what a pitcher is offering at the start of a game, and his above-average ability to steal bases doesn’t hurt either, even if it’s not as significant as it used to be for the job.

Not only do I think Biggio can handle and even flourish as a leadoff hitter, I can’t help but think it’ll benefit Bo Bichette in a big way as well. Again, I would have no issue with him leading off at all, but there’s something about having him hit in the two-hole that I like even more. It would allow Bichette to have direct protection from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and that’s not a small thing. Biggio was an admirable hitter to have following him last year as well, but I’m willing to bet Bichette would see even more pitches to hit by sliding down one spot in the order.

I also think the Blue Jays would benefit from having Bichette in more of a run-producing spot in the lineup. A leadoff hitter is only guaranteed to hit first in an inning once, but even having Biggio in front of him would boost his RBI opportunities. By comparison, Danny Jansen had an OBP of .279 last year as a frequent number nine hitter, and Randal Grichuk was just a shade better at .280, also hitting in the bottom third. The Blue Jays will hope they both raise the run-producing opportunities for the kids when the lineup turns over, but this is one way to help that directly for Bichette.

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I don’t know that Montoyo will fix something that wasn’t broken during the latter stages of the 2019 season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Bichette starts out as the leadoff hitter in 2020. However, as this team continues to rebuild, and these emerging stars gain experience and show us who they’ll ultimately become, I think there will be a lot of good reasons to flip Biggio and Bichette. It’s a good problem to have, and I look forward to seeing them what they can during their sophomore campaigns.

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