The impending Blue Jays debut of George Springer is just the type of spark the offense needs
A prototypical leadoff batter hits for average, gets on base, and supports the more powerful hitters coming up behind him.
The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t been getting much of that so far this season, a big reason why the offense ranks only 22nd in the Majors in runs scored. But that will change on Wednesday when George Springer, the Blue Jays $150 million prize in free agency this offseason, is expected to make his long-delayed debut to face the Washington Nationals at TD Ballpark in Dunedin.
If an MLB front office tried to design an ideal leadoff hitter, they would come up with Springer. Hits for average? Springer has hit .278 over the last four seasons. Gets on base and scores runs? He leads all leadoff hitters with 347 runs scored since 2017, six more than Mookie Betts, and is tied with Betts for the most walks.
He also provides power and run production when the offence needs it. Springer is first among all leadoff hitters over that span in home runs (109, 21 more than Francisco Lindor) and RBI (283, nearly 50 more than Betts). If manager Charlie Montoyo wanted to make a change to jumpstart his lineup, then putting Springer at the top of it is just the thing he needs.
The Blue Jays have received little production from the top of the lineup in 2021. Before Cavan Biggio’s 3-3 night against the Nationals on Tuesday, Blue Jays leadoff hitters were in a 3-27 slump. They have one extra-base hit over the last two weeks and no home runs since April 13. Biggio, who has started there the last five games, and Marcus Semien, who started the first 17 games, have scored just three runs over the last 11.
Blue Jays leadoff hitters rank 27th in MLB this season in batting average and on-base percentage, and have the fourth-most strikeouts. Combined, Biggio and Semien rank 23rd in runs scored.
Springer’s absence over the first 22 games was sorely noted. He first suffered an oblique strain in spring training. Then, just when that injury seemed to be healing, he came down with a quad strain. Springer has been taking batting practice, playing in games at the Blue Jays alternate site, and running the bases. He was near a return on Tuesday but decided the quad still wasn’t good to go.
Montoyo reiterated the Blue Jays weren’t about to rush him back to the lineup. “He feels great, except the running. He’s got to make sure he’s close to 100 percent to start playing,” he said on Tuesday.
That time appears to be on Wednesday when Springer will be in the Blue Jays lineup for the first time. He’s expected to be the DH, not yet ready to play centre field full-time. That will allow Biggio to stay in right field instead of moving back to third, where he’s struggled mightily this season, and keep the more sure-handed Joe Panik in the lineup.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had the best game of his big-league career on Tuesday and looks like a superstar in the making. Teoscar Hernandez is expected back in the coming days. Finally, with Springer leading the way, the Blue Jays lineup is starting to appear as it was expected to.