In the past, leadoff hitters were usually the fastest players who might not get on base a ton but will steal second when they did get on first base. Nowadays, the focus is on the batters who get on base the most, and rightfully so. We’ve seen guys like Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto hit leadoff for their respective teams at points despite being slow-footed first basemen while the Blue Jays have experimented with slugger Jose Bautista hitting at the top of the order before.
The Blue Jays have one of the best lineups in baseball. They have players like Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, and Vladimir Guererro Jr. in the middle of their lineup. They have home run threats from almost every spot in the order. They were third in the MLB in runs per game at 5.22 and were third in total runs scored. The job of a potential leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays is simple. Get on base in front of the big boppers.
The Jays have a couple of guys who I think would be good leadoff hitters. Cavan Biggio had a rough 2021 campaign but posted an OBP of .364 in 2019 and .375 in 2020. Even with his struggles, he still finished with a .322 OBP this season. While I don’t think Biggio would be a bad choice, I believe the obvious choice to continue leading off is George Springer.
George Springer should be the Blue Jays choice to lead off for a lineup that projects to be one of the league’s best in the 2022 season.
The Blue Jays signed Springer to a six-year $150 million dollar deal last offseason. Prior to the Jays signing him, he was a consistent leadoff hitter for the Astros. He was the guy leading off when they won the World Series in 2017. He was the World Series MVP while hitting at the top of the order.
Springer can do it all. He has pretty good speed even though he’s not a base stealer. He hits for a ton of power and gets on base. While he might identify as more of a cleanup hitter, he’s fit so well at the top of the order his entire career, and the numbers back that up.
This past season Springer only played in 78 games due to a variety of injuries. In those games, he led off 58 times, hit cleanup 14 times, and hit fifth eight times. When leading off, he slashed .276/.361/.593 with 17 home runs and 39 RBI. To put how insane those numbers are into perspective, if he played in all 162 games in the leadoff spot with those stats, he’d be projected to hit 47 home runs which would have been one shy of the most in all of baseball.
Springer also had 17 doubles out of the leadoff spot. Having Springer on at second base with nobody out to lead off a game who has the speed to score from second on a single to the outfield in front of guys like Bichette, Guererro Jr., and Hernandez is as close as you can get to a guaranteed run in baseball. The Jays scoring first in front of a really solid rotation gives them a great chance to win any game.
Springer owns a 151 WRC+ in the leadoff spot which would’ve been third in the American League this past season. While hitting cleanup, he had a 99 WRC+ which puts him as a below-average hitter. Yes, the sample size is small, but he’s proven to be elite in the leadoff spot in his time before this past season as well.
In the 2019 season, Springer hit leadoff 119 times. Every game he started that season came from the leadoff spot. He slashed .295/.385/.596 with 39 home runs and 96 RBI in that role. His 157 WRC+ in that spot was fourth in the American League that season. Springer has a career 138 WRC+ in 659 career games in the leadoff spot. That career mark would be tied for the sixth-highest WRC+ in the American League for the 2021 season.
While Springer might be able to be successful in another spot in the lineup, there is no logical reason to move him until he struggles. The Jays have a plethora of right-handed power hitters who can hit in the middle of the lineup and drive in someone like Springer who gets on base at a high clip. The Jays lineup is that much scarier with someone like Springer hitting in a spot that is comfortable for him and that he has proven himself to be successful in.