The Toronto Blue Jays are seeing improved team defense, partly thanks to Santiago Espinal. He should be the everyday 3B for 2021
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The Toronto Blue Jays have been talking about the need for improved defense for a long time and bringing in George Springer and Marcus Semien was meant to address that. They also trusted Cavan Biggio and his glove to move him to the hot corner, which didn’t pay off the way it was supposed to. Enter Santiago Espinal. He’s been a revelation at third and should remain the everyday option…until the offseason.
When the Blue Jays traded Steve Pearce to Boston, Espinal came back and at the time it felt like a ‘get what you can’ type of deal. Espinal figured to be in the category of guys like Richard Urena and others: a light bat with a decent glove at the short stop position. His minor league numbers suggested a guy who could hit, get on base, but not hit for a lot of power. His highest home run total was 10.
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Eventually, in 2020, he got the call to see what he can do in the big leagues and his 26 game sample yielded a line of .267/.308/.333. He committed just two errors in 156 innings. It was OK, maybe even good. But, not enough that fans (or management) felt comfortable giving him a major role with the team. But, Biggio’s struggles, etc led the club to need Espinal more than we thought.
And, he has answered the call rather well. He’s already put up 1.1 fWAR and a line of .305/.359/.418 with 2 homers, 20 runs, 13 RBI and 3 SB. These numbers may actually be higher than we would have expected, but the club will definitely take it. However, it is his glove that has proven to be more valuable. He’s put up 5 DRS, a UZR/150 of 9.9 and an OAA mark of 3, which puts him tied with guys like Alex Bregman, Manny Machado and Evan Longoria and one OAA below Jose Ramirez.
When the Blue Jays were approaching the Trade Deadline, it would have been easy to put a more natural third baseman on their shopping list. But, that would have been a ‘want’ as opposed to a ‘need’. With the offense that Toronto runs out there, more power is not exactly something they’re hurting for. In fact, with the bats they have, all they need to make a run this season is a solid defender at third. Santiago Espinal is that guy.
IF the club still feels like they need an upgrade this offseason (and they should), there are plenty of names available on the open market. There are names like Nolan Arenado, Kyle Seager, Kris Bryant and Eduardo Escobar. As well, there are sure to be some trade targets available…for the right price. It is also worth noting that the Blue Jays came away from the Deadline with Jordan Groshans still in their system. So, perhaps, whatever the 2022 solution is at third base, it only needs to be short term.
Regardless, for the 2021 season, Santiago Espinal has earned his spot at the hot corner on an everyday basis. he has helped settle the team defense and is even chipping in more offense than we thought. Sure, he could regress in that area, but defense doesn’t go into slumps and the Blue Jays can afford the type of hitter Espinal is thanks to their mega lineup. So, Espinal can, and should be their everyday third baseman…for now.
*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.