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Blue Jays: George Springer should earn his way back to the top

May 8, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Springer talks towards the Houston Astros dugout before the game at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Springer talks towards the Houston Astros dugout before the game at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

George Springer is getting closer to a return to the Blue Jays lineup. When he does make it back, should he have to earn his spot back at the top of the lineup?

A month ago that would have been a stupid question, but I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore. The difference is that the Blue Jays’ top four hitters have been carrying the lineup, and Marcus Semien, Springer’s fill-in as the leadoff hitter, has been absolutely sensational for over a month now.

The 3rd place finisher in the AL MVP voting from 2019 has been one of the biggest reasons the Jays have managed to stay above .500 while dealing with a plethora of injuries. Over the last 30 games Semien has slashed .361/.422/.672 in a span that’s covered 122 at-bats. He’s not just setting the table for the big boppers coming after him either, as he’s swung a powerful stick to the tune of eight home runs and 22 RBI over those last 30 games, and 13 home runs and 32 RBI on the season.

Earlier in the year I wrote about how Semien will make an incredible #5 or #6 hitter when Springer can finally make it back, but it might be nearly impossible to move him that far down right now, at least until he cools off.

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You’d be a fool to mess with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his place in the 3rd spot in the order, unless you wanted to argue for moving him up further and trying to get him a few extra at-bats over the course of a full season. Regardless, you can’t move arguably baseball’s best hitter so far in 2021, and I can’t imagine he’s going anywhere for anybody. He added his MLB-leading 17th home run last night, pushed his RBI total to 45, and his OPS is now up to 1.104.

As good as Semien and Vlad Jr. have been, Teoscar Hernandez has been keeping up since he returned from a stay on the Injured List due to a positive Covid test. Some players have struggled to make a return from the virus, but fortunately Hernandez hasn’t been one of them. Over his last 30 games he’s slashed .333/.391/.556 with seven home runs and 28 RBI. He’s been a crucial hitter in keeping the opposition from pitching around Vlad Jr., and hopefully he’ll continue to provide that quality protection for the remainder of the year.

The only “weak” spot in the top four has been Bo Bichette, and he hasn’t exactly been dragging them down. Over that same last 30 games stretch I’ve used for the others Bichette has slashed .270/.319/.444 with nine home runs and 32 RBI over that span. You’d like to see a little higher on-base percentage, but otherwise Bichette is having an All-Star calibre season, even if it doesn’t feel like it with some of the talent he’s surrounded by. He’s also a franchise cornerstone who Charlie Montoyo wants to build the lineup around, so it’s tough to see him being moved right now either.

To be fair, Montoyo may just decide to stack their 150 dollar man on the top of the lineup regardless, and that means one of Semien or Bichette will likely move (again, Vlad Jr. isn’t going anywhere). Is that the right call? I mean, it’s hard to argue against using Springer as the leadoff hitter when he’s been one of the best in baseball in the role for years, and he was the big-money signing of the offseason that was supposed to put the offence over the top.

For what it’s worth, if the decision were mine I would start Springer hitting in the 5th spot, and inevitably move him back to the top once he was able to get a few games under his belt and get his rhythm back. It wouldn’t be a long-term idea with the talent in Springer’s bat, but I’m not sure I’d mess with the current top four until the veteran can demonstrate that he’s up to speed.

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With Springer back running bases and getting closer to a return, it won’t be long before Charlie Montoyo has to make that decision.