George Springer has a very well rounded skill set. With that in mind, where is the best spot for the Blue Jays to use him in their lineup?
It’s a question that was posed to Charlie Montoyo on Thursday, and he gave a pretty fair answer, saying “I see him anywhere in the top three”. That makes sense given what Springer can bring to the talented Blue Jays group of hitters, and considering the other weapons they’ll look to utilize in the best way possible.
Speaking of the top three, I can see there being at least four candidates for the first two spots, and you could probably make an argument for almost any of their projected starters to hit as high as 3rd or 4th. As far as leading off the lineup, it’s a role that Springer filled for the Astros over most of the first seven years of career, and he’s very good at it. In fact, his career slash line of .270/.361/.491 works well to kickstart any group.
That said, the Blue Jays have another new addition that could hit high in the lineup, as Marcus Semien was one of the best hitters in the American League in 2019 when he finished third in MVP voting, and has experience doing the same. And of course, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio have proven themselves as valuable top-of-the-lineup hitters as well.
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So how should Montoyo sort things out, especially when it comes to Springer? The easy decision would be to pencil him in at the top, but I’d be pretty tempted to try a few different combinations.
Springer has started 603 of his career 795 games leading off, and the splits tell us it’s been his most successful spot. That makes sense considering that Jose Altuve followed him in the Astros’ order for years, and has been one of the better hitters in the AL for a while himself. And whether it was Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran or others following Altuve, there was plenty of lineup protection.
That said, the 31-year-old is already making a change by moving to a new team, so why not make a change in batting order role as well? The more I think about, the more I’d like to see him hitting second or third for the Blue Jays. That would give them a lineup that could look like this:
5- Gurriel Jr.
6- Guerrero Jr.
You could make a few tweaks, and flipping Bichette and Springer could make just as much sense. Both are well-rounded and dangerous hitters, and I love the idea of the two of them following Biggio and his .375 on-base percentage from last year. If Biggio goes into a cold stretch, perhaps Semien makes sense to move up to the top as well.
Don’t get me wrong, Springer or even Bichette would be a fine answer too, and there’s an argument to putting your very best hitters at the top to make sure they get the most plate appearances. That said, I can’t help but salivate at the idea of having Springer in more of a run producing role, especially seeing as how his game has evolved in recent seasons. Despite being the “leadoff guy” in Houston, the seven-year veteran had 39 home runs and 96 RBI over just 122 games in 2019, and another 14 HR and 32 RBI in 51 games last year. I know that MLB is making some changes to the baseball for 2021 that could calm down the amount of home runs flying out of big league stadiums, but Springer has evolved into a legitimate power threat.
It’s the best type of problem for someone like Montoyo to have, and I’m sure it’ll be a fluid situation throughout the season. With the Blue Jays having several talented and well-rounded hitters that could thrive at the top of the lineup, they may get even more from Springer in a new role with his new team.