The Toronto Blue Jays are loaded with exciting talent, but we need to acknowledge the bench players for their contributions
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The Toronto Blue Jays are in fairly good shape as they prepare for the second half push toward the 2021 postseason. They boast 4 All Stars, one of the game’s best hitters in George Springer and one of the nest starters in Hyun Jin Ryu. They are building a contender and it is exciting. But, while the Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s and Bo Bichette’s of the world get all of the attention, they would not be where they are without contributions from the club’s “role players”. Specifically, the club should be thanking Santiago Espinal and Reese McGuire.
Trading Steve Pearce to the Red Sox has worked out for both teams. The Red Sox won a championship and the Blue Jays now have Espinal contributing at the big league level. The 26 yr old Espinal has seen action in 46 games and has filled in rather nicely at third base without having much minor league experience at the position at all. He has put up 5 DRS, a UZR/150 of 8.9 and 1 OAA. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Blue Jays third baseman put up defense like that. It’s not Gold Glove material, but it is a marked improvement.
On the offensive side of things, Espinal is chipping in well. In 110 plate appearances, he’s put up a .304/.355/.402 line and 108 wRC+. The argument can be made that he may be playing above his head so far in that his xwOBA is .274 and his actual wOBA is .333, but that’s really neither here nor there. He’s 5th on the team with 0.8 fWAR. He’s contributing to a Blue Jays team that needed a solution at the hot corner. Sure, they could really use someone with more power at that position, but all things considered, Espinal has made the most out of his skill set and the Blue Jays should be thrilled.
Whether his ‘incident’ in 2020 Spring Training impacted his performance that year is anyone’s guess. But, if it has, he seems to have put that behind him. With injuries to both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, the Blue Jays desperately needed McGuire to step up. He had a month of June that allowed a sigh of relief. McGuire hit .344 in June with 139 wRC+ and an OPS of .876. He’s also put up 2 DRS on the season with a FRM (Pitch Framing) value of 1.6, which would put him 6th in all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify on the leader board.
Is this the real Reese McGuire? Who knows? And, really, who cares? He does not figure to be part of a championship in Toronto. He is a back up catcher who has been thrust into an everyday role. His job is to fill in when needed and he has done just that. He may never be an All Star, or even an everyday player, but he has done a commendable job doing what he should: filling in.
Any winning team needs its stars to shine. The Blue Jays, for the most part, are getting that. A winning team also needs its supporting cast to maintain a competitive level. Often, the story of a club’s season will leave out the performances of bench/minor players. But, both Reese McGuire and Santiago Espinal have been part of the Blue Jays’ success in 2021 and deserve credit for that.
Espinal may not be the team’s everyday third baseman after the Trade Deadline and McGuire may not even be with the big league club once Jansen and Kirk are both healthy. But, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been contributors. So, for a moment, let’s take tip our caps to the unsung heroes that these two have been.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.