How are potential Matt Chapman replacements performing so far this year?
By Edward Eng
Currently on the Jays’ 40-man roster and playing for the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons, Addison Barger is believed to be the next in line to play at third base for the Jays in the event any call-up is needed for the position. Barger had an impressive Spring Training with the Jays in which he hit .294 with a .792 OPS, to go along with six runs scored, two doubles, a homer, and six RBI in 34 at-bats. However, he has gotten off to a slower start with the Bisons this year, with a slash line of .237/.333/.329, one homer, six RBI, 10 runs scored, 10 walks and 27 strikeouts, and currently on the 7-day IL. His potential is still there, after all, he progressed through three minor league levels just this past year, so the Jays will be patient with his development, but at the same time, will be expecting more from Barger as he matures into a solid MLB player.
Compared to Barger, Orelvis Martinez is more at the “raw” stage at the moment, but packs a ton of potential if he is able to unleash it, as he is currently ranked in the top five for Jays’ top prospects, along with being capable in producing Chapman-type numbers. For the 2023 season, he is currently playing for the Jays’ Double-A affiliate New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Despite being given split duties between the shortstop and third base positions throughout his minor league career, Martinez has a better chance at making the big leagues as a third baseman with Bo Bichette firmly entrenched as the Jays’ starting shortstop for the near future. But so far in 2023, Martinez has been struggling, with only 12 hits all season and hitting below .132 with an OPS of .649. His power and production is still there, as nine of his 12 hits are home runs, along with 25 RBI, but hitting consistency has been lacking. As a result, he could be a potential heir to the Jays’ third base position, but it may take a little more time for Martinez to fully develop.
The Jays may already have the solution present currently on their active 26-man roster in Santiago Espinal. For those who recall, Espinal occupied third base for the Jays during the 2021 MLB season before the arrival of Chapman. He had a solid season in the position, with a .311 average, .781 OPS, 113 OPS+, 32 runs scored, two homers, 17 RBI, along with six stolen bases, 22 walks and 30 strikeouts. More importantly, he provided steady defence at the position with DRS of 8 and only four errors in 196 chances. He may not have the same explosive offensive output as Chapman, but he could certainly hold his own with his defensive capabilities. However, Espinal has been performing way below his career standards so far in 2023. He has only nine hits in 59 at-bats, including a double, one home run and 7 RBI, leading to a .153 average, .451 OPS, and an abysmal OPS+ of 28. He will need to turn it around soon before he can be entrusted into a full-time everyday position on the Jays’ roster.