George Springer set to make first start in center field in over a year

Los Angeles Dodgers v Toronto Blue Jays
Los Angeles Dodgers v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

With a chance to win the series at hand, the Blue Jays have released their lineup for tonights ballgame. Alejandro Kirk is back behind the dish, Bo Bichette is back at short, and George Springer is making is first start of the year in center field. 

With the combination of the Blue Jays outfield depth being depleted and facing a tough lefty tonight in Cole Ragans, the stars align for Springer to make just his second appearance in center field over a span of 182 games. With Kevin Kiermaier still on the injured list and Daulton Varsho being given the night off, Springer will get an opportunity to show he’s still got it after having played almost 300 less games in center than in right field over his career. 

Springer is about about as average of a right fielder that a team can hope for, while also mixing a few spectacular plays per year. He ranks in the middle percentiles in Outs Above Average and Arm Value. Despite these indicators, Springer’s defence has been worth negative bWAR during his time in Toronto, totalling -1.3 since 2021. 

Springer’s last full season as a center fielder came in 2022, playing 86 games there while also spending some time in right and as the designated hitter. His defensive metrics actually graded out quite well, despite sporting a -0.7 defensive WAR over that time. His Outs Above Average was in the 76th percentile, likely boosted by his above average speed, a quality that rated in the 76th percentile as well. 

The veteran outfielders sprint speed has taken a hit in recent seasons. Likely a result of aging and previous leg related injuries, Springer’s sprint speed has dropped to the 65th percentile. 

Speed isn’t the single deciding factor for effectiveness in the outfield, as evidenced by Daulton Varsho. Ranking in the 69th percentile in speed, Varsho is still tops in MLB in terms of Outs Above Average, accruing seven already early in the season and representing the 100th percentile.

Springer has some big shoes to fill, replacing statically the best outfielder in baseball. This move is far from permanent, but it’ll be interesting to see how Springer handles this challenge while simultaneously trying to get his bat going.