Neither side appear to have huge expectations in terms of offense from the second base position this year.
Whit Merrifield seems likely to start for the Jays, but in reality this could turn into a ‘ride the hot hand’ case with Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio also in the mix. Following his arrival in Toronto, Merrifield took a little while to warm up before reverting back to his normal self - ending the second half of the season with a .750 OPS and a couple of clutch hits as the Jays kept themselves in the playoff picture.
After a tremendous start to the 2022 season, Espinal dropped off through July and August. He will still provide a strong defensive option in the infield, whilst coming up with the occasional useful knock - but it feels like Merrifield’s job to lose.
Christian Arroyo should start the year as Boston’s everyday second baseman after a pretty solid campaign last year. He posted a .286 average, the highest of his fledgling career, hitting six round trippers and knocking in 36 runs across 87 games. Like the Jays, it’s a whole lot of average but Arroyo will no doubt continue to develop as a player.
Bo Bichette is a key part of the Blue Jays offense, as he proved in September/October 2022 with a .406 average, seven home runs and 27 RBI. There remain some concerns about his defense, but there won’t be many people that doubt the impact he has on his team.
If the Red Sox had Trevor Story available to start the season this may have been a tighter outcome, but with Kiké Hernández penciled in as the starting short stop, it’s clearly advantage Bichette. Hernandez played seven games at the position last season and, although he has had previous experience playing there, it feels like a very makeshift solution for Boston.
Advantage: Blue Jays
After a pretty drab offseason, the signing of Rafael Devers to a long term extension appears to have given the Red Sox faithful a reason to get excited ahead of Spring Training. With a strong hard hit percentage and the ability to hit to all corners of the field, the Dominican native is easily the most important part of Boston’s lineup. Add in Justin Turner as a strong veteran backup, and the Sox are looking very strong at the hot corner.
The Blue Jays have their own hard hitter at third base. Matt Chapman is one of the MLB’s premiere defenders, with a career UZR of 49.8 and multiple gold gloves, but he’s also capable of making clutch plays on offense. With 27 home runs last season he matched Devers, but he did lag behind in most other categories.
Given the depth they have at the position, this feels like a very narrow advantage for the Red Sox.
Advantage: Red Sox
Clearly the Blue Jays’ outfield has undergone a massive overhaul over the offseason. The addition of Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho signals a nod towards defensive improvement from the front office. However, they do boast one of the better lead off hitters in the league in George Springer.
If Springer can stay healthy all season, he’ll be by far and away the most impactful offensive player between the two teams - but that is a big ‘if’. Opposite him at left field, Varsho should contribute effectively as well, especially if he can replicate his 2022 stats (27 home runs, 74 RBI and 16 stolen bases). There’s also an injury question mark around Kiermaier, but if stays in one piece ‘the Outlaw’ can bring his impressive range to the outfield of the refurbished Rogers Centre.
Jarren Duran had a tough start to life in the big leagues, especially after losing a fly ball in the Fenway lights against the Jays. However, his development will be the key to the future prospects of the Red Sox’s outfield. New addition Masataka Yoshida brings a reputation as a good contact hitter with him to Boston, and he’ll most likely slot into the lead off spot from opening day onwards.
With Duran and Yoshida relatively untried in the MLB, 26 year old Alex Verdugo now takes on the role of leader in the Red Sox outfield. Verdugo is a slightly above average hitter who lacks a little on defense. However, he’ll be crucial to the success of his team in 2023, as he possesses the most proven bat in the middle of the Red Sox order.
Advantage: Blue Jays