Cavan Biggio may finally be playing his way out of a job on the Blue Jays
Cavan Biggio couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to begin the 2023 season. The Blue Jays are giving him a chance to prove himself as an (almost) everyday player. Unfortunately, he has yet to grab the reigns, even with Santiago Espinal, one of his main rivals at the second base position, having a poor start to the year.
Despite Biggio's desire to be a super-utility player, coming out of Spring Training it was clear that the Blue Jays would let Biggio and Espinal fight it out for playing time at second, with Whit Merrifield bouncing around between second and the corner outfield. The survival of the fittest, if you will.
Through two weeks of the season, neither player has been able to mount much of a case, so the revolving door continues to churn. With the Jays firmly in win-now mode, the chances are ever-increasing that Biggio's time in Toronto may be drawing to a close.
Things have been rough at the plate in the early going for the fifth-year player. He has barely factored into the team's hot offensive start, hitting .160/.276/.280 with one home run, one RBI and four runs scored, good for a less-than-stellar 61 wRC+.
Biggio can count himself lucky that Espinal is off to just as bad, if not worse, a start, hitting an abysmal .080/.080/.080 with a -70 wRC+.
The left-handed hitting Biggio hasn't even been able to take advantage of the shift restrictions this season. His .231 BABIP is well down from his career mark of .296 and the league average of .299. There could be an element of bad luck, but if you peer under the hood, he's not doing much to help himself.
His home run in Kansas City left the bat at 103.6 mph, but his average exit velocity this year is 82.3 mph, a drop-off from his career average of 88.2 mph. That has led to a 14.3% hard-hit rate. He typically sits in the low 30s.
While the 28-year-old has never been much of a slugger, if he's struggling to make quality contact, his eye at the plate and on-base ability become more important than ever. It's what has made him a valuable bottom-of-the-lineup piece in the past.
Bad news there, too.
While he has a 10.3% walk rate this season, barely above the league average of 9.1%, he hasn't taken a free pass since the first game in Kansas City. During that time, his strikeout rate has ballooned to an unseemly 37.9%. For those trying to do the math, that's 11 strikeouts and three walks in 29 plate appearances.
Maybe he's had some bad calls go against him, but there's evidence that his approach at the plate isn't working. As discussed in his season preview, Biggio needs to cut down on swinging at pitches out of the zone to succeed, despite already being better than the league average.
So far, not so good. He has been trending in the wrong direction over the past few seasons and has continued the slide this year.
He's sporting a 25.4% O-Swing rate, by far the highest of his career. As his O-Swing and strikeout rates go up, his walk rate, batting average and on-base percentage go down, and you're left with an empty spot in the bottom third of the lineup.
It's not like Biggio has been forced to hit against lefties (1-for-4) very often, with most of his action coming against right-handers (3-for-21). Last season, as one of the few left-handed bats the Jays could muster, he saw a lot of action versus righties, but now with more lefty bats available, he'll have to start producing when he's called on to if he wants to keep those at-bats.
It's unfortunate that Biggio hasn't been able to take advantage of the situation afforded him. It's still early, and he has time to turn his season around. A good week at the plate could change everything.
If he continues to struggle, the team will eventually have to make a decision. Whether the result is a trade or a demotion in favor of a big bat from the farm, Biggio's rough start to the season may be the beginning of the end of his time with the Toronto Blue Jays.