Blue Jays: What will Biggio and Espinal’s roles be in the second half?

Henry Wright
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 4: Cavan Biggio #8 and Santiago Espinal #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate defeating the Minnesota Twins in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on June 4, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 4: Cavan Biggio #8 and Santiago Espinal #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate defeating the Minnesota Twins in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on June 4, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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Entering the 2022 season, it appeared as though Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal would be in a sort of battle for the role of the Blue Jays starting second baseman.

This however fizzled out almost immediately, as Biggio struggled immensely at the plate before missing time on the IL, while Espinal proved to be an above-average bat with an elite glove, all but solidifying himself as the team’s starter at second. Espinal was able to earn himself a spot on the American League All-Star team as a sub, but that doesn’t paint the full picture of these two players’ recent play. Since his return, Biggio has looked like a completely different player, and has found a way to get more regular playing time, which begs the question; what role will these two players have with the Blue Jays moving forward, and how with their play affect one another?

As I mentioned, since his return, Cavan Biggio has completely turned his season around.

Through his first 13 games on the year, he was 1 for 23 with a .258 OPS before being placed on the IL in late April, and spent some time in AAA Buffalo to try and get his game back. He returned to the team on May 26th and he’s completely turned his season around. In his 132 plate appearances since then, Cavan has a .382 OBP and a .827 OPS, all while playing the best defense of his career. Splitting time between first and second base, he currently sits in the 89th percentile for outs above average and has yet to commit an error at second. I wrote about it a bit during the offseason, but Cavan’s biggest contribution to the offense is his ability to walk. As of right now, his BB% of 14.6 is 8th in MLB among batters with at least 100 plate appearances, which is even more impressive considering he hasn’t walked in his last 29 plate appearances as of writing this. His emergence as a plus fielder and his return to form as a solid hitter has put him right back in position to be starting games, however, it may not be that simple.

Much like he did in 2021 at third base when Biggio began to struggle early this year, Santiago Espinal took full advantage.

Prior to Biggio’s return in late May, Espinal was posting a .760 OPS in 158 plate appearances and was playing some stellar defense, which had all but locked him in as the Blue Jays starting second baseman. Since then though, things haven’t gone as well for him, as he’s put up only a .675 OPS in his last 202 plate appearances once Biggio’s returned. In the field, Espinal has yet to falter. He currently sits in the 96th percentile in outs above average and ranks third amongst all second basemen for defensive runs saved. With Bo Bichette still struggling to find his footing at shortstop, Espinal has been a dynamic and invaluable presence in the middle of the Jays infield and has shown he can also be very capable at short and third. At his best, Espinal can hit for a good average (he currently sits in the 87th percentile of xBA, and his .311 average in 2021 was the best among all third basemen with at least 200 plate appearances), and provide exceptional defense. With his recent struggles at the plate though, his role as an everyday starter could be in question.

With both Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal looking to solidify their spots in the Blue Jays lineup, what might their roles be in the second half of 2022?

So what will Biggio and Espinal’s roles be in the second half of the season? With Biggio currently hot and Espinal slumping, the obvious choice might be to start giving Biggio the lion’s share of starts, but I don’t think that’s what will or should happen.

I think we see a platoon situation is what the Blue Jays should use moving forward.

Espinal will start the majority of the games at second, especially when a lefty is on the mound since he hits them much better, so he would generally play two or three games a series. Biggio already starts at first when Guerrero Jr. DHs so that will likely stay the same, but I think we’ll see him get some starts at second or DH when a righty is on the mound and someone is given an off day. Espinal’s fielding is so valuable to the Blue Jays at this point that I think it’s unlikely we see him out of the lineup very often, so I think we see him take the 1A role, while Biggio operates as the team’s utility infielder (and likely their emergency outfielder). I think Cavan will also see playing time in some other more specific roles. The Jays are obviously pretty short on lefty bats, so he will likely see some pinch-hitting opportunities down the stretch, but he’s also a fantastic base runner, so I think we could see him get reps pinch-running late in games.

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If Espinal’s struggles at the plate continue, it’s certainly possible that Biggio could start to get more starts at second, but for now, I would expect Espinal to remain the starter.

He may not start as often, but Biggio should still be seeing plenty of playing time, would be primed to get some starts should anyone in the infield go down with an injury. Only time will tell how these two’s roles evolve over the coming month, but for now, Blue Jays fans should be happy that we have players worthy of these types of discussions.

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