Blue Jays: Which Jays will benefit from the new shift rules?
Will any right-handed Blue Jays benefit from the new rules?
Here are the right-handed batters who faced the most shifts in 2022, according to Statcast:
George Springer has developed into more of a pull hitter over the past few seasons, with a 48.3% pull rate in 2022. He also hit more ground balls last season at a 44.5% clip, his highest percentage since 2019.
That equated to 122 pulled grounders for the Jays' leadoff man, 100 of them into a shift. With a .190 average, he beat the league mark of .158 and stands to benefit this season if he continues at that pace. That may mean an extra five or six hits, which will raise his overall average from .267 closer to .280.
But hopefully, with his elbow back to full health, he won't hit the ball on the ground as much and can return to hitting more line drives and fly balls.
Danny Jansen and Matt Chapman don't seem to be in line for a substantial boost this season, as they both hit a lot of fly balls in 2022, 50.6% and 48.5%, respectively. While Santiago Espinal hits more ground balls, at a 42.9% rate, he didn't face shifted defenses enough last year to make a big difference in 2023.
Which other Jays won't see much of a difference?
At the bottom of the Statcast table are the four Jays who faced the lowest frequency of shifts in 2022 and won’t see much impact from the rule changes this season. What do they have in common? They can all handle the bat and spray the ball all over the field.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the most likely candidate out of this group to experience an uptick in hits. Even though he's not a pull-heavy hitter, he hit a lot of ground balls last season at 52.1%. Luckily, he hit the ball hard, which helped him get balls through the infield even when he was shifted against.
But, like Springer, there's hope that Guerrero Jr. gets the ball up in the air more this season, where he can do the most damage, and not worry about where the infielders are positioned.
All in all, a few Blue Jays may be able to take significant advantage of the rule changes this season. But despite the shift restrictions being a substantial change on the field, most will only experience small to negligible benefits in 2023.