Blue Jays – It is getting tough to ignore what Spencer Horwitz is doing at the plate in triple-A

Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
11 days ago

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a shade of their former selves regarding their offensive production. A club known for hitting the long ball and driving up the score on occasion just a few years ago struggled to replicate that success in 2023 and seems to have sunk even further this season when it comes to generating any production for their pitching staff.
The Jays rank on the wrong side of the mean in many offensive categories, including hits (22nd), home runs (25th), and pretty much every slash line category outside of OBP, where they rank 12th largely in part to their ability to walk with regularity (207 on the year – rank sixth).
The blame extends to numerous players across the lineup. However, some have been outliers to the sluggish start including Davis Schneider, Danny Jansen, and now Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has found a rhythm after a hot month at the plate. Because of these offensive inconsistencies up and down the batting order, the Jays have tried to juggle their lineup around to have Guerrero Jr. at third base to bring Daniel Vogelbach into the lineup with more frequency, with Turner occupying first base as the Jays coaching staff tries to find some way to generate more runs.
Down in Buffalo, an answer to some offensive at the plate could be closer than one may think – most notably in left-handed hitting Spencer Horwitz.
After a scuffling spring, Horwitz was sent down to Buffalo to start the year given the limited roster space at the big league level and the Maryland product is making the most of the opportunity. At the plate, Horwitz owns a .332/.451/.500 slash line with 20 doubles, four home runs, and 38 RBIs to the tune of a .951 OPS. He has walked more than he has struck out at 41 free passes to 38 punchouts and he has easily been one of the top bats on the Bisons squad so far this season. Horwitz leads the International League in terms of hits (67) and doubles (20) and ranks second and third in terms of OBP and batting average respectively.
In triple-A, Horwitz owns a 154 wRC+ and a .431 wOBA while walking at a 16.7% clip through 54 games with the Bisons. In particular, the lefty bat is seeing an 8.8% increase in his line drive percentages compared to last season and owns a .394 BAbip as he continues to showcase what he can do at the plate.
Defensively, Horwitz has spent most of the season at first base but more recently, the club has been giving him some increased reps at second base considering the current logjam that exists in the big leagues with Guerrero Jr. and Turner. There still exists some competition even at second base from Schneider, Cavan Biggio, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but the Jays are trying him out at the position and the early results are showing that he can handle himself on the right side of second so far.
So why isn’t Horwitz in the big leagues already? That’s an interesting question.
Considering the Blue Jays are chock full of utility-type players who can play numerous positions, there is a high chance that Horwitz would not see consistent playing time if called upon to the big leagues unless some players are moved to create some roster space (and thus opportunities to play).
Having him play on a part-time basis compared to getting full-time reps in triple-A might do more harm than good in the long run and considering the Jays’ future outlook is still up in the air, the Jays may be biding some time to see how June plays out before calling upon more of the prospect core.
The expectation is that Horwitz would play in the field compared to a pinch-hitter/DH role, so while he could platoon with the likes of Turner or Vogelbach in the DH spot, that seems less likely. The Jays have been notorious for not promoting positional prospects too quickly, considering the long-term approach the Blue Jays seem geared towards with the likes of Horwitz and other prospects such as Orelvis Martinez and Addison Barger, who fans saw for a cup of coffee earlier this year (in which he played the field). Horwitz lacks power behind the likes of Martinez and Barger, which is something the Jays might prioritize at the moment given their lack of home runs, but the Radford alum gets on base and is able to pick his spots across the diamond, one of the reasons he leads the league in doubles right now.
Another drawback for Horwitz is the recent emergence of Vogelbach in the DH spot, as the veteran left-handed hitter is starting to produce at the plate and is seeing his name pencilled into the lineup as of late.
Prior to tonight’s game, Vogelbach produced a .256/.289/.419 slash line through May and the few games in June as he worked sporadically off the bench in pinch-hit situations for more of the month. Since May 23rd, the former Mets bat has found a better swing at the plate – posting a .326/.350/.421 slash line with a .771 OPS – which included a big-time double against the Pittsburgh Pirates to help the Jays beat their NL East opponent via 5 to 4 on Sunday.
Looking ahead, there is a path where Horwitz is in the big leagues this season but one of a few things has to likely happen.
One scenario is Vogelbach falls off the map again and the Jays want to try a new left-handed bat in the lineup while still having Guerrero Jr. take reps at third base to put either Horwitz or Turner at first base/DH. Another scenario is that the June schedule destroys the Jays and the front office begins trading off players in July, creating a path for prospects to take up more room on the roster. Lastly, an injury to a current member of the core group of Jays could see Horwitz back up in Toronto, similar to how Barger was given an opportunity when Kevin Kiermaier hit the IL.
With Horwitz producing at such a high rate in triple-A, the bat continues to get louder and louder and harder to ignore if you are a member of the Blue Jays front office who is watching a current roster struggle to recover from the ‘blip’ that was the 2023 season. Sooner than later the domino will fall but the reason why will be the most telling, and one that could be the waving of the white flag if the Jays continue to get steamrolled by AL East rivals.

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