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Blue Jays: Batting 2nd hasn’t worked as well for Vlad Guerrero Jr.

Aug 4, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter George Springer (4) greets first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (right) as they celebrate a win over Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter George Springer (4) greets first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (right) as they celebrate a win over Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Charlie Montoyo shuffling the Blue Jays batting order has helped spark their latest hot streak, but it hasn’t done much for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Vlad Jr. spent the bulk of the season as the 3rd hitter in the lineup, and he thrived to the point where he’s still considered to be one of the front-runners for AL MVP voting. In that spot on the lineup card he posted a .323/.418/.671 slash line and collected an impressive 30 home runs and 74 RBI over 85 games covering 310 at-bats.

With the return of George Springer to the active roster, Montoyo took longer to install the 3x All-Star at his familiar leadoff position than I thought he would. That’s because Marcus Semien had done such a great job in his absence, earning himself the nod as the starting second baseman for the AL All-Star team and posting numbers that put him among WAR leaders across baseball. There was also Bo Bichette occupying the second spot in the order, and whose well-rounded skillset landed him a spot on the All-Star team as well.

The solution that Montoyo came up with at the time makes sense, and given the way the team has turned things around of late it’s hard to argue with. That said, Guerrero Jr. hasn’t been rolling the same way, as he entered yesterday’s double-header with a .278/.339/.444 line over 13 games and 54 at-bats as the number two hitter. He went just 1-7 against the Red Sox on Saturday as well, although he nearly won the game for the Jays in the 7th with a long drive that fell just short of the centre field wall.

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To be fair, it’s more than likely that other variables are having a greater effect on Guerrero. The league has had more time to study what he’s done to make himself so effective this season and then make adjustments accordingly. It’s also possible that the 22 year old is starting to tire a bit, as he’s played in 108 of the team’s first 109 games. It may simply be that he’s experiencing a bit of a cold streak, which will happen for pretty much every hitter at some point over a 162-game grind.

To me, a spot in the order is less about where you’re hitting, and more about who is hitting in front and behind you. In the previous set-up Vlad Jr. was following Bichette and had either Springer or Teoscar Hernandez protecting him. Out of the two spot Guerrero Jr. now follows Springer, and has Semien coming up behind him. Given the performance of the top-five hitters in the lineup, I’m not so sure that’s a factor here.

I’m not advocating for an overreaction and making drastic changes to the lineup, but I wonder if it makes any difference to the man himself. There are hitters around the league that are at their most comfortable hitting in a certain spot, and I think we’ve seen the evidence with the way Springer has turned things on since returning to the top spot in the order. I can’t help but wonder if Vladdy simply prefers to hit third, or if he cares at all?

I wondered if flipping Semien and Vlad Jr. might be something that’s worth a look, but the more I think about that arrangement the less I like it. I’ve been surprised by how good Bichette has looked as the cleanup hitter, but I’m not sure his free-swinging ways are the ideal fit to protect Vlad Jr. in the order. I was actually thrilled with the way that Teoscar Hernandez performed in that role early in the year, especially as he’s become a more patient hitter.

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My guess is that the young phenom will get back on track sooner than later and eventually make me look silly for asking the question at all. That said, I can’t help but wonder if anyone tweak to the Blue Jays batting order is coming if Guerrero Jr. can’t get things going soon.

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