Blue Jays add utilityman Otto Lopez to taxi squad in case Espinal needs to go on IL
By Eric Treuden
The Toronto Blue Jays are adding utilityman Otto Lopez to their taxi squad ahead of the three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. To many, the taxi squad was here and gone once the COVID-shortened 2020 season was up, but this is not the case.
Currently, players may be added to their club's taxi squad only if a player on the 26-man roster is actively injured and may require a trip to the 15-day injured list. In this case, that would be 2022 All-Star Santiago Espinal, who has a right wrist contusion after taking a 98mph fastball from Gerrit Cole off of his wrist.
In Lopez, the Blue Jays are going to be keeping him nearby in case Espinal goes down. The 24-year-old has seen just a tiny bit of playing time in the majors in both 2021 and 2022 and has been down in the minors with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons to start the current season.
He has been a light-hitting speedster throughout the course of his career, but he's been able to utilize his toolset in an efficient way. Lopez is nowhere near a double-digit home run player who is going to constantly be swinging for the fences. Instead, he draws walks, he drops bunts, he steals bases and he just finds a way to get himself on base.
In 17 games for the Bisons this year, Lopez has not been off to a great start with the bat. In 59 at-bats, he has 10 hits including a double and two triples. His batting average has dipped down to .170 but he is still the closest big-league-ready infielder the Jays have on-hand.
For Espinal, the hope is obviously that he won't have to face an extended absence, but perhaps a brief trip to the 15-day injured list would be good for him to hit the reset button. After having two consecutive seasons in a row in which he boosted his value, Espinal carries a .114 average through 13 games this year, registering just four hits in 35 at-bats. His OPS+ currently sits at 9, which means he is 91 percent below league-average at the plate.