Blue Jays: Leadoff candidates when George Springer has to rest

Jul 26, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider and center fielder George Springer (4) in the dugout before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider and center fielder George Springer (4) in the dugout before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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It sounds like George Springer may have to play through the pain for the rest of 2022. When he needs rest days, who should hit leadoff for the Blue Jays?

I’m sure some of you think that’s a silly question after the 4x All-Star was in the lineup last night, including hitting a 2-run single as part of a big rally. I’ll admit that it looks like the veteran is going to tough things out and play more often than not, but I do think there are going to be plenty of nights when John Schneider will have to let him rest his wonky elbow.

Springer plays some significant roles for the Blue Jays, including being a respected veteran, and one of the best players on the team. He’s also their centre fielder, and their leadoff hitter, so his absence is felt any time he’s not on the field. It also makes a lot more sense that the Blue Jays made the trade for Whit Merrifield, who is a versatile defender that can play all over the outfield and at second base, but he’s also an experienced leadoff hitter as well.

I’m not sure that Merrifield will be the first person called upon to lead off if the Blue Jays have to rest Springer, but he’s definitely an option. He had a strong opening game as a member of his new team on Thursday while picking up two hits, and at his best he’s a very strong table setter, or at least has been throughout his career. Admittedly, seeing his on-base percentage below .300 isn’t all that encouraging, but I believe we’re about to see a motivated 2x All-Star who will improve his numbers down the stretch, and he’s still capable of stealing bases as well.

Earlier this week we saw Schneider lead off with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and that makes sense to me as a stopgap option as well. Gurriel Jr. has been one of baseball’s best hitters over the last couple of months. Over his last 30 games the 28 year old has slashed .371/.421/.466, which obviously fits like a glove as far as a leadoff hitter’s profile. I’m not sure that he’ll keep this up for the rest of the season, but for the time being I liked what Schneider tried the other night.

A third option would be Cavan Biggio, at least when he’s in the lineup. He’ll be in a bit of a battle for playing time with Merrifield, Santiago Espinal, and Raimel Tapia to varying degrees, but he’s been a strong producer as far as on-base percentage at various points of his young MLB career. He’s cooled off a bit after his most recent hot stretch, but he swung the bat well in the series opener against the Twins on Thursday, and hopefully will continue the trend.

The last candidate I see, at least for now, would be another part-time player in Raimel Tapia. The former Colorado Rockie has exceeded most people’s expectations this season, especially lately. Over his last 15 games he has slashed .370/.370/.571 including two home runs and 15 RBI. His playing time could take a bit of a hit with Merrifield’s arrival, but if he keeps producing like that then Schneider will have to find a way to utilize him on a fairly regular basis. Tapia is a bit of an old school leadoff type, and not so much by today’s standards, but when you’re as hot as he’s been then there’s nothing wrong with the skipper taking advantage of it.

Next. How will the new Blue Jays fit in?. dark

In a perfect world Springer will be able to find a way to play more often than not, and the Blue Jays won’t have to worry about who to pencil in at the top of the lineup. That said, I think it’s safe to say that John Schneider and company should have some back-up plans in place, just in case.

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