The Battle at Second Base for the Toronto Blue Jays
Heading into the season not all of the positions are settled for the Toronto Blue Jays. With Spring Training around the corner, the Blue Jays have a plethora of options for their starting second baseman. While it seemed like a guarantee for Cavan Biggio to get the nod, off-season rumors surrounding the Blue Jays suggest this contest is wide open.
Cavan Biggio is the clear favorite to earn the spot as the everyday second baseman with the Blue Jays. In his first year, he hit .234/.364/.429 with 16 Home Runs and 48 RBIs. Normally Biggio would be penciled in as the starter at second base. However, rumors suggest that Biggio will transition into the outfield at some point this upcoming season.
Biggio has experience in the outfield most recently in the Arizona Fall League in 2018. The Blue Jays are known for transitioning infielders to the outfield. For example, the Blue Jays transitioned Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from second base to left field last year. If Biggio were to due the same thing in 2020, this leaves the second base position wide open.
Santiago Espinal is a name that may not be familiar to many Blue Jays fans. He is 25-years-old and came from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Steve Pearce. Throughout the minors, Espinal has played center field, shortstop, third base and second base. After a great season in 2019, Espinal will likely make the 26-man roster in Toronto.
In 122 games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Buffalo Bisons, he hit .287/.347/.393 with seven home runs and 71 RBIs. Espinal’s versatility increases his value to the Blue Jays organization. The depth chart lists him as their second-string shortstop, but he has also proven himself at second base. If Biggio does go to the outfield, Espinal is a dark horse candidate for taking over second base.
Brandon Drury will make the 26-man roster out of Spring Training. In 120 games last season, Drury hit .218/.262/.380 with 15 Home Runs and 41 RBIs. Although Drury is an infielder, second base is not his best position. While he will likely start some games at second base, he won’t be the team’s starting second baseman. If Biggio does transition into the outfield it could happen, but it’s unlikely. Regardless, Drury needs to step up this season to stay in the line-up.
The Toronto Blue Jays signed infielder Joe Panik to a 1-year minor league deal on January 18th.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 18, 2020
The Blue Jays hope that this acquisition could work similarly to the signing of Eric Sogard last season. Although he may start the campaign in Buffalo, Panik will have the opportunity to play in Toronto.
In 142 games last season, Panik hit .244/.315/.336 with five Home Runs and 39 RBIs. As a former starter at second base, Panik has the pedigree to win the starting job out of Spring Training. Panik is more of a stop-gap solution at second base. If Panik performs well, Toronto could trade him to a contender.
Breyvic Valera had a great season last year in Triple-A with Sacramento and Scranton. However, in 17 Major League games, Valera hit .234/.308/.383 with 3 home runs and 14 RBI. The Blue Jays have Valera as their third-string second basemen. However, if Biggio goes to the outfield, he would be in the mix to win the starting role. It may be a long shot, but he still has a chance.
While all these players could develop into decent everyday second baseman Biggio will be the starting second baseman on Opening Day. However, Joe Panik will take over the starting role as the summer progresses.
As the team is still in their early stages of becoming contenders, the Toronto Blue Jays will undergo plenty of trial and error to find their ideal line-up. All five players will likely get a look at second base. After years of having limited depth at the position, this may be the deepest this position has been. All while Jordan Groshans is a few years from making the majors. While it would be great to address the outfield, moving Biggio shouldn’t be the long-term solution.