Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: Potential Lineup Change Involving Two Hitters

Evan Gignac
Apr 30, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Santiago Espinal (5) sets to bat against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Santiago Espinal (5) sets to bat against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /
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The 2022 season has been a mixed bag up to this point. The Blue Jays have been graced with an overall good rotation. Alek Manoah has improved from his great rookie season and Kevin Gausman has been better than advertised.

Shockingly, the offence is the area of concern for the team in mid-May. Even in a season where offence is down across the league, the Blue Jays still manage to be below average in key categories, including on-base percentage and average with runners in scoring position. With hitters this talented, it’s easy to just say “don’t worry, this can’t last”.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to believe you. But what actually needs to happen in order to make it “not last”? I’m inclined to believe that some sort of lineup shakeup will do the trick, with an effort to emulate the offensive success seen in the latter parts of last season.

The Blue Jays lineup has been scuffling. Here’s a potential lineup change that involves the surging Santiago Espinal and scuffling Bo Bichette.

Throughout most of April, when the offence was somewhat consistent, it was shown that the Jays didn’t particularly suffer from the absence of Marcus Semien. This is due in large part to the success of Santiago Espinal. As of this being written, Espinal leads the club in bWAR, sitting at 1.5. This can be attributed to his play on both sides of the ball, as he’s played stellar, errorless defence while being an above-average hitter at the plate. I think a promotion to a higher spot in the lineup would do wonders for both Espinal, and the offence as a whole.

The 2021 Blue Jays utilized Semien high in the lineup, with 88 games in the leadoff and 45 in the second spot. This was due to his high OBP and his ability to both start and contribute to offensive rallies as well as with George Springer on the IL for a majority of the first half of the year. As it stands right now, Bo Bichette just isn’t doing that. His aggressive plate approach has produced a .283 OBP. This number out of the two spot is not sustainable, and the Blue Jays would benefit from having Bichette hit in a spot where his aggression can lead to RBI.

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Espinal has become the ideal two-hole hitter. With a slash line of .280/.347/.449, this mixture of average, OBP, and clutch hitting is the perfect package to inject into a higher spot in the lineup. The more Santi is on base, the more runners guys like Guerrero Jr., Hernandez, and Bichette can bring around to score. If Espinal is in the two spot, then where would Bichette find himself?

As we saw at the end of 2021, I believe Bo would benefit from hitting cleanup. As he did for 51 games last year, Bo’s aggressive approach would be given the opportunity to drive in runs while hitting in the middle of the lineup. This would move Hernandez down a spot, as he continues to regain his timing at the plate (which looks to be taking form after last night’s game).

While the slash line of .246/.283/.362 for Bichette isn’t inspiring, his peripheral stats as per Baseball Savant could be translating that he’s due for his season breakout. He hits the ball as hard as the rest of the best hitters in the league, and with consistency. He’s at least in the 83rd percentile in max and average exit velocity. He’s also hitting into some bad luck, as his expected batting average (xBA) is in the 82nd percentile.

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With Espinal hitting second and Bichette hitting cleanup, these hitters are playing to their strengths and the Blue Jays lineup is lengthened. Espinal can be further encouraged to get on base, and Bo’s plate approach can be embraced in a spot where he has increased RBI opportunities.

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