The Blue Jays have all the potential in the world, but it’s clear that there’s still work to do when it comes to improving their infield defence.
The front office talked about how it was an area they wanted to improve on over this past offseason, and signing Marcus Semien to play second base qualifies as a move in that direction for sure. However, for Bo Bichettte, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio, the pressure is on to provide better defence as a group, because so far in 2021 it’s been pretty weak.
Bichette in particular has had a rough first eight games of the season on the glove side, already committing three errors. He definitely has the raw talent to play the position, but there were rumours that the Jays had considered moving him to second base over the winter, mostly if they were to acquire someone like Francisco Lindor through a trade with Cleveland (before he was dealt to the Mets), or when they kicked the tires on Andrelton Simmons as a free agent. The 23-year-old simply has to be better if the Blue Jays are going to thrive, and/or if he ultimately wants to play the position for the long haul, and I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that.
As for Vlad Jr., I will say that he’s looked considerably better at first base this year when you compare it to what we saw in 2020. His weight loss over the offseason has allowed him to move a lot better at the position, and he’s even made some pretty impressive stretches at the cold corner. That said, it’s also pretty clear that he still needs to gain some valuable experience at the still relatively new position. We’ve seen examples that involved footwork, and when to pursue a ground ball or retreat to his bag. He’s also missed a chance or two to scoop a low throw at first base, and might have been able to save Bichette from one of his three errors. It’s all pretty normal as he gains experience at first and I’m confident he’ll get better, but it’s likely going to take some time.
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When it comes to Biggio, I think it’s just a matter of seeing if third base is a position that suits him for the long-term. He’s flexible enough to play almost anywhere, and that versatility gave the Jays the ability to sign someone like Semien, which is a major plus. I’m more than confident that he’ll provide adequate defence at third, but we’ll see how his arm plays at the position over the course of a full season, and if the Blue Jays ultimately decide they’re better off having him start somewhere else in 2022 and beyond. So far he’s been pretty solid, but we’ll see how things look a few months from now.
Add it all up and the Blue Jays still have plenty of work to do to bring their infield defence up to the standard it needs to be. Again, it’s still way too early to make any long-term judgements, but the conversation isn’t going away until things improve. Seemingly insignificant plays like not being able to dig out a low throw, or bobbling the ball at the start of a double play attempt, can make the difference in a game, especially at the highest level. It can be the difference between good and great, or between a playoff team and one on the outside looking in.
By no means is it time to panic or make any position changes or anything, but it’s been a pretty obvious area that needs to improve early on in the 2021 campaign. Over the course of a 162-game season, those little things can add up to a lot of missed opportunity.