Jordan Luplow could be the right-handed bat the Blue Jays need
Photo credit:Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
4 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in a peculiar situation heading into the 2023 All-Star break. As a whole, the club boasts a collective .260 average (eighth best) and a .744 OPS (11th-best) compared to other teams around the league but sits all the way down in 17th when it comes to home runs (96), a dramatic turn from a club that fans are used to seeing hit the ball over the outfield walls with frequency over the past few seasons.
While the RISP woes have been documented all season long, the Jays batters have had their fair share of struggles facing left-handed pitchers, with the club posting a .744 OPS and a .565 OPS from righty-batters and left-handed batters respectively heading into Wednesday night’s game. Furthermore, the Jays’ left-handed batters have yet to really drive the ball against southpaws, with just four extra-base hits on the year with six RBIs through 132 at-bats. While the club’s right-handed batters are faring better against left-handers, such as Matt Chapman and his .373 average or Bo Bichette and his 1.007 OPS, a larger majority are batting below the .250 mark, including Alejandro Kirk, George Springer, Danny Jansen, and Santiago Espinal (more regular players).
|vs RHP as RHB||86||1653||217||447||91||2||53||208||134||341||.270||.332||.424||.756||.312|
|vs RHP as LHB||85||731||88||175||42||5||29||79||83||223||.239||.320||.430||.750||.302|
|vs LHP as RHB||52||435||72||115||23||0||14||69||43||80||.264||.331||.414||.744||.291|
|vs LHP as LHB||48||132||6||30||3||1||0||6||13||40||.227||.299||.265||.565||.323|
Interestingly enough, the San Diego Padres recently designated veteran Nelson Cruz for assignment, which had fans across social media tweeting at their respective organizations about the opportunity.
A righty-batter with over 464 career home runs, Cruz has struggled at times this season, seeing his average dip to .245 with an OPS hovering at .681 through 143 at-bats, while also adding five home runs and 23 RBIs for the Padres. As for facing left-handers, Cruz sports a .666 OPS through 83 at-bats while adding three home runs, so he isn’t exactly mashing lefties but his OPS stands higher than all the Jays I mentioned above minus Jansen (.689).
Should the Blue Jays consider promoting Jordan Luplow to the active roster?
While the thought may seem intriguing to add another right-handed bat, one that would require a 40-man roster move to accompany a player getting demoted or DFA’d off the active roster, there may be another internal option worth considering.
Acquired by the Blue Jays back on April 5th via the waiver wire, outfielder Jordan Luplow has been toiling away in the Minors for most of the season except for a brief ten-day span in mid-April.
The California product found himself in six at-bats during that time, going hitless at the plate while striking out four times with one walk. He only started two games with the two other appearances coming late in the game as a pinch runner, seeing sporadic playing time as a member of the Jays. The club would option him back down to Buffalo and would later outright him off the roster, with the former Atlanta Braves outfielder no longer on the 40-man. In Triple-A this year, Luplow is sporting a .234 average and a .751 OPS through 145 at-bats, as the 29-year-old missed almost a month back in mid-May/early June due to injury.
Looking at the stats, one may question why Luplow would factor into the conversation of promotion given the likes of other batters performing well such as similar righties in Davis Schneider or Rafael Lantigua (amongst others), but history is on the side of Luplow when it comes to hitting against left-handed pitchers.
For his career, Luplow owns a .830 OPS facing southpaws at the big league level (through 436 at-bats) with a .498 slugging percentage and 31 home runs, which makes up 68.9% of his home run total. While the average isn’t as high as one would like at .223, the fact of the matter is that Luplow has plus power when facing left-handed pitchers, which wasn’t on display earlier this season when he wasn’t with the Jays. Maybe the sample size was too small or maybe the sporadic playing time had something to do with it but overall, the numbers do support Luplow being able to handle left-handed pitchers.
This trait has also carried over into Triple-A this season, as Luplow sports a .884 OPS and a .529 SLG through 51 at-bats against LHP, adding three home runs and 14 RBIs. This is pretty much the same as his stats facing right-handers (three homers and 13 RBIs) although in over half as many at-bats (104 vs. RHP). The sample size is on the smaller side given the injury issues but what is intriguing is how Luplow has been able to capitalize on left-handed pitching and has been able to drive in runs at almost twice the normal output compared to when he is facing right-handers.
The one drawback is similar to Cruz, Luplow requires both a 40-man and an active roster spot. A roster spot could be made available if the Jays decided to option Ernie Clement back to Triple-A (or potentially Epsinal or Cavan Biggio but that seems less likely) but a 40-man roster spot gets a bit trickier, with the likely candidate being someone in the pitching corps like Thomas Hatch, Trent Thornton, or Jay Jackson, although all three pitchers did pitch well during their time in the Majors this year (again, small sample size).
That question however does not need to be answered unless the Blue Jays do want to pursue promoting Luplow back to the big leagues, hoping that his power against left-handers will follow him back to the Majors.
Is the move somewhat risky given there are other potential options out on the open market? Sure, but with the trade deadline approaching and roster spots likely being needed anyways for potential deals (as well as the return of Hyun Jin Ryu and Chad Green in the near future), giving Luplow a chance over the next couple of weeks could save the Jays some prospect capital to trade for pitching rather than a right-handed bat if he can find the power. That is if the former third-round pick can find a way to hit for power against big-league pitching again.
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