Blue Jays vs. Rays: Who comes out on top of a position-by-position breakdown?

Graeme Wallace
Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays / Mike Carlson/GettyImages
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First Base

With Ji-Man Choi now in Pittsburgh, this is another position group that’s somewhat in a state of flux. Isaac Paredes has shown some real thunder in his bat and seems poised to receive the bulk of the load here. He hit 20 home runs in just 331 at-bats a year ago and would benefit from a full season’s worth of swings.

The Brandon Belt signing gives the Blue Jays a different look and increased depth at first base. Obviously, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will get the brunt of the playing time and will attempt to put up numbers closer to his starry 2021 campaign than his still-good but could-be-better 2022 season.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Second Base

It will probably be a mix of Brandon Lowe, and Taylor Walls here for the Rays, with Vidal Bruján or Jonathan Aranda also available for depth. Tampa has one of the more fluid rosters in the majors and will have Paredes, who played 43 games at second in ’22, at that spot too. Lowe was a top-10 MVP candidate in 2021, with 39 homers, but struggled with injuries and had a sub-.700 OPS in 65 games last year.

Similarly, Toronto will go with a platoon of Whit Merrifield and Santiago Espinal, with a bit of Cavan Biggio thrown in here and there. This trio, all of whom can play multiple positions, can allow manager John Schneider to play the hot hand and he will have to as all three are known as streaky hitters.

Advantage: It’s a tie

Shortstop

This is the most interesting position group matchup and the one that could have the biggest swing. If Wander Franco can put it all together, he could be the best shortstop in the American League. Like Mejia and Paredes, Franco is hoping increased playing time and at-bats will generate more production. The Rays are banking on Franco showing a good return on the massive 11-year, $182M investment made in him.

Bo Bichette has led the American League in hits over the last two seasons and yet the narrative with him is that he can reach a higher level. He finished this past season on a scorching tear (.345/.562/.948, 10 HR) over the last 58 games but that followed a .259/.417/.720 clip over the first 101 so there are still some questions about consistency.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Third Base

Matt Chapman continues to be one of the best defensive players in the sport and, although he was up-and-down with the bat, his overall offensive numbers were up from 2021. If Chapman can find a way to get back to his production from 2018-2019, it would really add length to an already imposing lineup.

Yandy Díaz has established himself as one of the better hitters in the American League. With his hard-hit and exit velocity numbers, it’s always surprised me that he didn’t hit more home runs, topping out with a career-best 14 in 2019. However, his defensive stats are below-average, and the Rays may be smart to play Paredes more at the hot corner as he was above-average as a fielder there.

Advantage: Blue Jays

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