The Blue Jays have a battle going for their bench jobs this spring, and Santiago Espinal may be playing his way into legitimate consideration for a job.
After having several young players emerge last season to claim their spots going forward and for this season, then also adding several free agents over the winter, the Blue Jays didn’t have as many questions about their roster as they did a year ago at this time.
Veterans like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Matt Shoemaker and more would help round out the starting rotation, and fortunately the Blue Jays had several homegrown stars fill their lineup card last year like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, and more. By adding Travis Shaw to pad the depth at first base, the biggest questions facing the Blue Jays this spring are how to round out their bullpen, and what to do with their bench.
With the addition of a 26th roster spot for the 2020 season, the Blue Jays will almost certainly carry eight relievers and four position players on their bench. They’ll need a back-up catcher, an infielder, an outfielder, and one extra player, and so far it looks like Reese McGuire and Joe Panik will take up the first two spots. The Blue Jays have several options for the last two, including two outfielders that are out of minor league options in Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford, veteran utility man Brandon Drury, and several other choices at their disposal. However, if Grapefruit League performance was the determining factor, one of the jobs would likely go to Santiago Espinal.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
The 25-year-old has had an excellent spring so far, and he was at it again on Wednesday when he collected two hits and a pair of RBI in just two at-bats against the Orioles, including a home run. That brings his spring slash line up to .409/.458/.1000 with three home runs, six RBI, two doubles and a triple over just 22 at-bats. The only one who is outhitting Espinal in camp right now would be Jansen, who has been on an absolute tear lately of his own.
In addition to Espinal’s encouraging performance at the plate, the Blue Jays have to be intrigued with the idea of having him on the MLB roster because of his defensive versatility as well. Last season while in Double and Triple-A, the Dominican played second base, shortstop, third base, and in centre field, which could be very valuable to Charlie Montoyo off of the Blue Jays’ bench this year.
With the Blue Jays already having a talented core developing in the infield with Vlad Jr., Bichette, and Biggio, Espinal could be destined for more of a utility role in the big leagues anyway. It’s also possible that he could eventually get pushed to the outfield more regularly as well, and that could be a role the Blue Jays use him in as well. As things stand, it sounds like they’re going to use Randal Grichuk as the regular centre fielder, as they don’t want to have Teoscar Hernandez patrolling the middle of the outfield on a regular basis. Espinal could be a valuable back-up in centre, or who knows, maybe he could be a potential answer at the position as well if Grichuk is eventually returned to the corner.
It’ll help Espinal’s case that he’s already on the 40-man roster, but he also his minor league options left, which could work against his getting a MLB job to start the year. If he does, it’ll likely come at the expense of someone like Drury, Alford, or perhaps a pitcher or two, and it’s hard to say if the Blue Jays are ready to give up an asset in order to give Espinal a big league job.
However, if he keeps playing the way he has been, don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays decide to break camp with him as a valuable bench piece.