Blue Jays: Marcus Semien should have to earn his spot at the top of the lineup
Although Marcus Semien demonstrated significant offensive success when he was an MVP finalist in 2019, the Blue Jays should at least make him earn a spot atop of the lineup. With George Springer still battling an injury, Semien has been the leadoff hitter since Opening Day. Although it’s early and Semien has been fairly productive (three home runs in the first week), he has been the poster boy for offensive mediocrity throughout his career.
Aside from the one outlier season where he finished as an MVP finalist, Semien has never produced an OPS+ above the average mark of 100 in his career. Year after year, his OPS+ hovers around 95. Besides 2019, he has never been a great power hitter or even contact hitter for that matter. The sketchiest part of his player profile and his $18M contract is the fact that he fell back to reality after his legendary 2019 season, posting an OPS+ below 100 with a batting average of just .223.
I could go on all day about all the average offensive numbers possessed by Semien, but that would just be redundant. Although, I am still pretty bearish on Semien given his history in the aggregate, I am also not naive.
In his MVP finalist year, he got a bigger sample size of plate appearances than any other hitter and hit about 80 extra base hits with an OPS just below the elite .900 mark. Being that he is only two seasons removed from that spectacular year with a pandemic shortened season in between, Semien should absolutely be given the chance to earn a spot to hit atop of the lineup. However, the fact of the matter is that he was below average last season offensively and it’s a tad insulting to all the other plausible leadoff candidates to hit Semien leadoff because of numbers from two seasons ago that were a complete outlier for his career.
As I mentioned, Semien has had an OPS+ below 100 every year of his career except 2019, while pretty much every Blue Jay in the young core had an OPS+ above 100 between 2019 and 2020 (Guerrero Jr., Gurriel Jr., Biggio, Bichette, etc.). Case in point: Semien had one above average offensive year his entire career while half the Blue Jays lineup have been above average statistically since the day they entered the majors.
In my view, it makes way more sense to start one of Biggio or Bichette in the leadoff spot before freely handing it to Semien. Like I said, Semien was still unbelievable in 2019 so if you hit him in the seven or eight spot everyday to start the first couple weeks of the season, that should give Semien the chance to audition for a higher spot and prove he’s the player he was in 2019. If we are just going off his numbers in 2020 and 2018, you can make a very fair argument that he has the stats of a number nine hitter at best.
Everything considered, Semien has been mediocre offensively his entire career basically and until he proves he can sustainably be the hitter he was in 2019, he serves much better as high-upside depth at the bottom of the lineup.