With the Blue Jays acquiring Jonathan Villar on Monday, they’ve suddenly got a deeper and more dangerous lineup. What could it look like?
One of the major topics around the Blue Jays’ trade deadline was the need to add a middle infielder, specifically to help cover for the absence of Bo Bichette until he can get healthy enough to return from the Injured List. Thankfully they were able to do just that, adding a potential impact player in Jonathan Villar from the Miami Marlins.
Villar is far more than just a fill-in type, and will almost certainly see regular playing time even after Bichette returns. For now he’ll serve as the shortstop, but he has plenty of experience at second base, and has also appeared at third base and in the outfield during his MLB career. It remains to be seen how the Blue Jays will deploy him if and when Bichette can return, but for now it gives them a much deeper lineup to make up for their young star’s absence.
What might that lineup look like? As you’re more than likely aware, Charlie Montoyo isn’t the type to settle on one group, or even a routine batting order, and he also utilizes platoon match-ups where he can. That said, here’s a preview of what a close to everyday lineup could look like for the next little while.
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1- Cavan Biggio (2B)
2- Jonathan Villar (SS)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B)
4- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
5- Randal Grichuk (CF)
6- Rowdy Tellez (DH)
7- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
8- Travis Shaw (3B)
9- Danny Jansen (C)
It’s entirely possible that Montoyo will continue to roll with Grichuk in the two-hole, and it would be hard to blame him. That said, I like the idea of using Villar near the top of the lineup, as he adds a great deal of speed, the ability to hit for average and some power, and he’s accustomed to the top of the order. Personally, I’d leave Biggio where he is and not try to fix what isn’t broken, and I also feel that he could and even should be a permanent fixture at the top of the lineup.
In addition to the nine names above, Montoyo will find a way to work in others like Reese McGuire, Derek Fisher, Joe Panik, and Dan Vogelbach, although it feels like a roster move or two will change that picture, maybe as soon as Tuesday. All four of those players are left-handed hitters, so chances are the Blue Jays will seek a little more balance. Santiago Espinal bats from the right side, but my assumption is that with minor league options remaining, he’ll be moved off of the active roster to make room for the newcomers.
Getting back to what could be the starting lineup, what about when Bichette makes his return? It sounds like he’s making positive progress, so hopefully he’ll be able to join his teammates down the stretch and help push for and secure a playoff spot. He was almost indisputably their best player before he went down, so getting him back would be huge. And it might make the lineup look something like this;
1- Biggio (3B)
2- Bichette (SS)
3- Vlad Jr. (1B)
4- Hernandez (RF)
5- Grichuk (CF)
6- Tellez (DH)
7- Gurriel Jr. (LF)
8- Jansen (C)
9- Villar (2B)
In this scenario, there are a couple notable things to discuss, and remember, this is purely my own speculation here. That said, I’ve moved Biggio to third base because he’s been so adaptable for the Blue Jays this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one playing a new position when Bichette returns. He has experience at the hot corner from his MiLB days as well, and I’m sure he’d handle the transition just fine. If not, they could always try Villar at third.
Secondly, I’ve put Villar way down at the bottom of the order, but that shouldn’t reflect how I see his value. That said, the Blue Jays have had a very deep lineup so far this year, and having the veteran hitting ninth would give them a second leadoff hitter of sorts, and could give Biggio and Bichette even more RBI chances. He wouldn’t get as many at-bats hitting that low, but I’m not sure he would have to if the rest of the roster is healthy.
With the exception of Jansen’s struggles at the plate, you’re looking at a lineup that could be very deep and extremely dangerous. When you add that with the vastly improved pitching staff this season that just got better at the deadline, the Blue Jays have the baseball world’s attention. They might not be at the top of the contenders list in 2020, but I doubt that many teams want to play them in a short playoff series right now, and as long as they don’t fall apart in the second half, it looks like they’re going to get a chance to do just that.