The American League East is home to a couple of the game’s best 2nd basemen. Where does Blue Jays 2nd baseman Cavan Biggio rank?
The Keystone. Second Base. The first person who comes to mind when I think about Blue Jays second baseman is Roberto Alomar. However, the Blue Jays have had a few good players occupy the keystone position during the past 4 plus decades. Damaso Garcia (7 seasons), Aaron Hill (7 seasons), and Orlando Hudson (4 seasons and a great quote about former GM J.P. Riccardi looking like a pimp). Using Roster Resource, we run through the other American League East 2nd baseman. Although there are multitudes of interpretive rankings for this position, this is the order I saw them in:
- Yankees – DJ LeMahieu
- Rays- Brandon Lowe
- Blue Jays- Cavan Biggio
- Red Sox – Michael Chavis
- Orioles – Hanser Alberto
To rank and differentiate this pool of strong candidates, I based my decisions on the combination of various factors:
- Career WAR
- Age (whether they’re approaching their peak or closure to regression)
- Contractual situation – the length and cost of players control influences their value
- Steamer WAR Projections for 2020 – what is their anticipated production
- Offense – what is their track record
- Defense – what is their track record
#1 New York Yankees – DJ LeMahieu
|Career WAR||23.5 (BR) and 16.5 (Fangraphs)|
|Contractual Situation||2020- 12M, 2021- UFA|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||3.3|
In his first season since with the Yankees, LeMahieu put on a hitting clinic while playing multiple positions. A gold glove winner at 2nd base in 2014, 2017, and 2018 found himself without a position on an ultra-talented New York roster. The 3x All-Star played 40 games at 1st base, 52 games at 3rd base, and 75 games at 2nd base.
Offensively, DJ finished with a 5.2 oWAR (Offensive wins above replacement). In his first season in pinstripes, he’s notched an impressive .893 OPS and owns a career mark of .776 over 9 seasons. He owns a career exit velocity of 90.4 (MLB AVG 87.5) and finished with a 91.7 in 2019 which was in the top 8% of the league.
LeMahieu finished with an overall 0.9 dWAR in 2019. While playing the keystone, DJ posted a 4 UZR and 13.2 UZR/150. His DRS was 5, after posting an 18 DRS in 2018.
LeMahieu should be the Yanks everyday 2nd baseman which should help the 3x GG winner in the field. His ability to make hard, consistent contact makes him the top 2nd baseman in the list of AL East Keystones. The biggest thing working against DJ LeMahieu is would be his advanced age compared to the other 2nd baseman in the ALE but 31-yrs-old is old. The question moving forward is whether the Yankees will resign him after the 2020 season.
Potential Backups- Tyler Wade
#2 Tampa Bay Rays – Brandon Lowe
|Career WAR||3.6 (BR) and 3.5 (Fangraphs)|
|Contractual Situation||6 yrs @ 24M (AAV 4M) with 2025-26 club options|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||2.7|
Talk about a team-friendly contract. There is a lot of value there. We should expect Brandon Lowe to a Rays uniform for some time. Lowe suffered a serious strain of the quadriceps, missing most of the year. Leg injuries have a habit of lingering and recurring. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.
Despite missing the 2nd half of the season (July/August/September), Brandon Lowe still managed to produce a .354wOBA and 125wRC+ in 82 games. He batted .270 with 17HR and an outstanding .243ISO. Lowe hits the ball hard with a .507 xSLG and 91.1mph exit velocity in 2019. He produced a 16.3 Barrel % while owning FB (.291BA) and offspeed pitches (.320BA). Lowe walked 7.6% and struck out a whopping 34.6% but still managed to post a respectable .336OBP.
Brandon Lowe should see most of his reps coming from 2nd base but he will continue to play all over the diamond. In 2019, Lowe played 69 games at 2nd base, 5GP at 1st base, 2 GP in LF, and 5GP in RF. In 774.o career innings at 2nd base, Lowe owns a 5 DRS and 1.7UZR. He earned all his DRS and 1.4UZR in 2019 which points to an above-average, reliable defensive 2nd baseman.
#3 Toronto Blue Jays – Cavan Biggio
|Career WAR||2.8 (BR) and 2.4 (Fangraphs)|
|Contractual Situation||6 seasons control (2020-22 Pre-Arbitration; Arbitration Eligible 2023-25)|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||2.1|
If Bo Bichette was an under the radar 2nd round pick in 2016 (the first draft under Shapiro and Atkins), what should we classify Cavan Biggio’s selection in the 5th round of the same draft? While Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette were getting all the press as members of the Lansing Lugnuts in 2017, Biggio was quietly developing as a member of the Dunedin Blue Jays one level up. Even entering the 2018 season, I don’t think the Blue Jays truly understood what they had in Cavan. He was being used at 1st, 2nd, and RF as a member of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Then the power surge came. His name was now mentioned in the same breath as Vlad and Bo.
Biggio came on to the scene in 2019 – an impressive slash line of ..234/ .364/ .429, a .793 OPS, .343wOBA, and a 114 wRC+. In 100 games, Cavan showed off an elite level eye at the plate with 71 walks and 123 strikeouts while flexing a .195ISO with 16HR. Cavan Biggio finished in the 41st percentile in exit velocity (88.7mph) and 56th percentile in hard-hit % (9.0 barrel%). His Outs Above Avg was in the 92nd percentile. Biggio struggled against breaking ball and offspeed pitches, batting under .200. Fastballs gave Biggio very little trouble with a .277 batting average. This isn’t as bad as it looks since his elite eye allows him to layoff bad breaking pitches, putting him more hitter’s counts which result in more FB.
Defensively, Biggio played 85 games at 2nd base. He also appeared in 8 games each at 1B and RF, while making one start in LF. As a second baseman, Biggio posted a -1 DRS and -0.3URZ in 735.1 innings. Roughly average. Baseball-Reference gave him a -0.2dWAR.
I’ve seen a few articles this offseason suggesting Cavan Biggio should fill a utility role, everyday RF, 1st base, and 2nd base. For this series, it appears Biggio currently fits best as a 2nd baseman. This could change if Joe Panik makes the team or if Brandon Drury performs more like the D-Backs Drury than the version we’ve seen. Regardless, Biggio will get at-bats somewhere if he continues to hit for power with an elite OBP.
Potential Backups- Joe Panik, Brandon Drury, and Breyvic Valera
#4 Boston Red Sox – Michael Chavis
|Career WAR||0.7 (BR) and 0.7 (Fangraphs)|
|Contractual Situation||FA in 2026, hitting arbitration in 2022|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||1.0|
Debuting in 2019, Chavis showed good power with 18 home runs in 95 games. He also hit 7HR in 21 games at Triple-A. Chavis finished with a .190ISO while posting a very respectable .323wOBA and 96wRC+.
The rookie finished in the 44th percentile with an 88.8mph exit velocity and a disappointing 11.4% barrel % which translates in a 27th percentile hard hit%. Fortunately, for the Chavis and the Red Sox, when he did barrel up the ball went far with a max exit velocity of 113.8 (54th) and max HR distance of 459ft (47th). Baseball reference game Michael Chavis a 0.8 oWAR. He struck out 33.2% of the time while walking 8.1% for a .322OBP.
Defensively, the former 2014 1st rounder played 1st (49GP), 2nd (45GP), and 3rd (5GP). In 360 innings at the keystone, Chavis posted a -2DRS and URZ. At 1st base, he performed slightly better with a 1 DRS and 0.5UZR; however, Chavis will be playing much more 2nd base with Dustin Pedroia out and Mitch Moreland resigned.
Michael Chavis should get every opportunity to prove his worth in 2020. There is a possibility that Jose Peraza pushes Chavis into a utility role. Similar to a Brock Holt or to the role Chavis filled in his rookie season. However, once Bobby Dalbec shows up, I could see reps at 1st base and DH becoming very limited once Bobby Dalbec comes up. Fortunately, Chavis has a lot of value with two more seasons before reaching his arbitration years.
#5 Baltimore Orioles- Hanser Alberto
|Career WAR||3.1 (BR) and 1.3 (Fangraphs)|
|Contractual Situation||Avoided ARB with 1-yr 1.65M. ARB in 2021 and 2022. FA in 2023|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||1.4|
There weren’t many reasons for Baltimore Oriole fans to cheer in 2019 but Hanser Alberto was one. The one good thing about teams, someone always gets an opportunity which they would have otherwise not received. Alberto spent 3 years as a member of the Texas Rangers where he played 89 games and batted .192 with .440OPS. He seized his chance at an everyday job and ran with it.
Hanser played 139 games, batting .305 with 12HR (everyone hits HR) and a .751OPS. Despite his HR total, Hanser Alberto doesn’t hit the ball hard…..at all. He finished in the 1st percentile in exit velocity and hard hit %. Alberto posted an 82.8mph average exit velocity and only a 2.9 Barrel %. But the light-hitting infielder still produced an average .318wOBA and 96wRC+.
In the field, Hanser Alberto appeared in 90 games at 2nd base (67 starts) and 66 games at 3rd base (58 starts). We will see how games Richard Urena can steal from Alberto’s 2nd base total or if Rio Ruiz can improve. Over his career (860.1 innings), Hanser owns a 12 DRS and 7.0UZR at the keystone. In 2019, he posted a 5DRS and 4.0UZR.
Even after a .300 plus BA, 12HR season, Hanser Alberto might be on the bubble if he is unable to repeat this success early. Baltimore has picked up many options that could push Hanser to 3rd base or to the bench. See the long list of backups below.
In the AL East, the Keystone position is represented by players with a lot of versatility. Depending on the outcome of DJ LeMahieu’s pending free agency, Brandon Lowe could claim the top spot on this list next offseason. However, Biggio mustn’t be overlooked. For me, Michael Chavis is a wildcard with a chance to establish himself as a slugging 2nd baseman.
While Biggio may not be the best of the bunch, he should hold his own in the ALE. Biggio should be wearing a Blue Jays uniform for the next half-decade and has a chance to become one of the top 2nd basemen in Blue Jays history repeat his 2019 stats over that period. Will he ever eclipse Robbie? Let’s watch it.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of JFtC Ryan Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.