Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Depth Chart: First base
Blue Jays fans typically don't worry about depth at the first base position. But after Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s recent knee discomfort and subsequent withdrawal from the World Baseball Classic, it might be a good time to examine the Jays' first base depth chart.
No. 1: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
This is a no-brainer. The superstar slugger has solidified himself as the everyday first baseman for the Jays, heading into his age-24 season. After debuting in 2019 as a third baseman, Guerrero moved across the diamond and got a crash course during the shortened 2020 campaign with 34 games at first base.
He played a full season of 133 games at first in 2021, and with 128 games in the field in 2022, he secured his first Gold Glove award. An impressive feat, considering he had no experience at the position in the minors. He plays the role without fear, aggressively even, and finds every chance to show off his cannon of an arm.
Even if Vladdy couldn't play the position at a Gold Glove level, his elite bat is good enough to keep him as the everyday first baseman for the long term.
No. 2: Brandon Belt
Newly acquired veteran Brandon Belt immediately takes the backup role at first base. While he'll likely get more of his at-bats this season as a designated hitter, the 34-year-old will see time in the field when the team wants to get Guerrero off his feet for a day.
After playing only 78 games last season before undergoing knee surgery, the former San Francisco Giant hopes to showcase the power he had in 2021 when he hit 29 home runs in just 97 games.
Belt's experience will be invaluable for the Jays as a secondary first baseman and an emergency fill-in. Belt has played 1,192 games at first, committing only 59 errors with a .994 fielding percentage. Over the 12 seasons he's been in the big leagues, this fielding percentage ranks seventh among first basemen with at least 2,500 innings. Not too shabby for a backup.
No. 3: Cavan Biggio
Everyone's favorite underdog, Cavan Biggio comes into 2023 looking to stay healthy, get more playing time and finally gain a foothold on a full-time major league job. The former 5th-round pick has become a utility player for the Jays, playing all over the field since his debut in 2019.
Biggio made 33 appearances at first base in 2022, filling in on Guerrero's DH days. He held his own at the position, with a .992 fielding percentage, but likely won't see much time there this season. The 27-year-old hasn't shown the offensive chops to push past Guerrero and Belt on the depth chart.
No. 4: Whit Merrifield
While Whit Merrifield probably won't see any time at first in 2023, he made two appearances for eight innings of work at the position last year. He's played 15 games there over his seven years in the majors and can fill in in a pinch. But if he ends up starting any games at first base for the Jays this season, things have gone horribly wrong.
No. 5: Spencer Horwitz
Ranked as the Blue Jays' 18th overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, Spencer Horwitz made some noise in Double-A last season as a 24-year-old. In 70 games, he popped 10 home runs, scored 46 and drove in 39 while slashing .297/.413/.517.
Horwitz is currently on the 40-man roster, so the club thinks there's something there, but he's not going to get a major league job as a first baseman with Guerrero in his way. With Belt now in the fold, Horwitz will start 2023 back in Triple-A with the Bisons, where he hit .246 with a .724 OPS in 44 games last year.
Horwitz could find his way to playing some first base for the Jays this season if the worst happens and there's a significant injury to one of the big leaguers ahead of him. But his bat will have to continue progressing in the minors to earn that call-up, as the team has plenty of utility depth at the position.