There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Blue Jays ahead of the 2024 season, specifically in respect of how potent they can be offensively. However, the only person who would have realistically never been envisioned as part of the starting lineup a year ago, is Davis Schneider.
That's exactly where we are at though, with Schneider projected to be the starting second baseman as things stand. There will of course be varying opinions on this, but one thing you can say with certainty, is that he has earned the opportunity.
Last season was one which even the 24-year-old himself couldn't have predicted, no matter how confident he was in his own abilities. The way 2023 turned out for him would have been thrown away as too unrealistic, if presented as a reality television script to media executives at a major cooperation.
Rousing success in Buffalo and Toronto
Schneider came out firing in Buffalo, with 21 home runs, 64 RBI and a .969 OPS in 87 games earning him his first callup to the Majors. Once he arrived in Toronto, he somehow managed to be even better than what he was with the Bisons.
A script which was getting more ludicrous by the moment, saw the Berlin, New Jersey native hit a home run in his very first at-bat, at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. He then become the first player in Major League history with nine hits and two home runs in his first three games, but he still wasn't finished.
As per Brady Farkas of Sports Illustrated, Schneider went on to have a 1.358 OPS through 20 games, which was the best in the modern era with a minimum of 70 plate appearances. Defensively he was also proving reliable, with the majority of his games coming at second base, where he would go on to have a 1.000 fielding percentage in 22 starts.
Of course the hot run couldn't continue, and eventually the right-handed bat came back down to earth. He endured a nine-game hitless streak, before two hits versus the Rays in his final game of the season took his OPS back over 1.000.
What to expect in 2024?
The question is, does the hitting drought represent something to be concerned about, or just a minor blip for a player headed on a path towards being a regular Major League player for the years ahead? Have opposing pitchers worked Schneider out, or will he make the necessary adjustments to continue succeeding with the Blue Jays?
Baseball America (subscription required) predicts Schneider will prosper in 2024, with Dylan White writing: Considering he’s 25 years old at the start of the season, Schneider should produce approximately 3.0 WAR over 600 plate appearances for at least the next three years, giving him higher dynasty value than you might expect.
Part of the rationale for why the 2017 28th round draft pick will succeed this coming season, is an expected turnaround in pure bad luck. As per Codify on X, no other Major League batter had a higher percentage of out-of-zone pitches called strikes against them in 2023 (9.2 percent).
Even allowing for Schneider's late slump, his overall hitting statistics were (even more) remarkable when factoring this in. The bad luck also provides some reassurance to Blue Jays fans, after his 30.5 percent strikeout rate in the Majors last year.
Overall, it would be unfair to expect the infielder to produce an OPS around 1.000 again, but he's still set up to have another productive season. As per FanGraphs, he is projected to play 102 games in 2024, and among other things record 16 homers, 52 RBI, 13 percent walk rate and 113 wRC+.