The debate continues about where the Blue Jays should use Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the batting lineup, and hitting second makes a lot of sense.
I realize we went through this last year and that Guerrero Jr. ultimately settled into the third spot in the batting order, which is also a nice place for him. However, this is a slightly different team we’re looking at for the 2022 campaign, and the biggest difference is that Marcus Semien has left for the Texas Rangers. Semien was the most frequently used 2nd hitter in 2021, so we’ve always known there would be a tweak to the top half of the lineup.
While the Jays could slot a number of different players between the leadoff hitter in George Springer, and Vlad Jr. in the third spot, I can understand why Charlie Montoyo might try another look, at least to begin the year. If the lineup used for Thursday’s Grapefruit League game is any indication, Vlad Jr. could very well move up one spot in the order.
On Thursday the lineup looked like this:
1- Springer (CF)
2- Guerrero Jr. (1B)
3- Hernandez (LF)
4- Bichette (SS)
5- Kirk (C)
6- Gurriel Jr. (DH)
7- Chapman (3B)
8- Biggio (RF)
9- Espinal (2B)
While there are some quality hitters throughout this group, I’m not sure that I see an obvious candidate for the job we’re talking about. Baseball has evolved as far as how it sees the roles at the top of the lineup, but the need for a high OBP guy is still relevant, especially if we’re talking about lining someone up directly ahead of young Vladdy.
You could move Bo Bichette back to the top third of the lineup, but I can understand the argument for why he’s a better fit as a cleanup guy than a #2 hitter. His aggressive style at the plate makes him a very dangerous hitter, but it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a high on-base percentage. He finished with a mark of .343 last year, and while that’s not bad, you’d ideally like to see a higher mark than that. I can understand the argument for using him in more of a run-producing role in the four spot.
As for Vlad Jr., he absolutely brings that high OBP to the table, and he’s not just a home run hitter either. Last season he slashed .311/.401/.601, including an AL-leading 123 runs scored. He’s a better baserunner than he gets credit for too, and it looks like he’s in even better shape than he was a year ago. I’m not suggesting he has to change a thing about the way he approaches things at the plate, but he’s a pretty natural table setter for guys like Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez and more.
Speaking of the rest of the lineup, it’s not as if hitting second will keep Guerrero Jr. from RBI opportunities. They look to have one of the deeper lineups in baseball, at least on paper, and Vlad Jr. should get plenty of RBI opportunities regardless of where he lines up in the order. In theory it’s possible that he gets a few more at-bats in the 2-hole as opposed to hitting third as well, and that’s enough incentive on its own to consider the move.
I know that Guerrero Jr. ultimately preferred to hit third last season, but we’re now looking at a clean slate, and a slightly different group of players. In my mind it makes sense to try this new look to start the year, and in a worst case, Charlie Montoyo and the coaching staff can make a few tweaks. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to be necessary.