Ranking Every Blue Jays Position Player for 2023
Photo credit:Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
By Tate Kispech20 days ago
It’s almost that time of year.
2023 is here and we’re a little over a month away from when catchers and pitchers will report for Spring Training. So, here’s the first article of a two-parter in anticipation of the new season. This time, I’ll be ranking every position player that FanGraphs’ Roster Resource projects to be on the 26-man roster. Here’s a reference list of the 13 players being ranked, counting down from 13th to 1st.
Consider that I am not ranking players based on talent, but value. Position matters, as a centre fielder will accumulate significantly more value than a first baseman of the same offensive talent. Additionally, I am assuming complete health for each player on this list. Of course, that will not be the case, but injuries are impossible to predict, so I won’t bother. With that being said, let’s get started with number thirteen…
13. Nathan Lukes, L/R, OF
At this moment in time, Lukes has the 4th outfielder role fall to him practically by default. He’s 28 years old and has never taken a major league at bat. I find it unlikely that he actually starts the season on the 26-man, even if the Jays really don’t have another option. Because I don’t project him to actually take a major league at bat, I’m not going to make a statistical projection here.
2023 Projection: N/A
12. Spencer Horwitz, L/R, 1B/OF
Horwitz is a pretty solid prospect for the Blue Jays. He projects to fill in at 1B when necessary, however I once again find it unlikely that he spends a majority of the season on the active roster. He hits well but the Jays have lots of outfield versatility, and Vlad plays nearly every day, so there’s not much room for him to fit defensively. I’m also not going to make a projection here, because I don’t think he’ll stick in the bigs for long this year. Because of the Jays situation and his offensive quality, his future may lie elsewhere.
2023 Projection: N/A
11. Whit Merrifield, R/R, 2B/OF
Merrifield came to the Blue Jays in a deadline deal with the Royals, and performed quite well after the deal. He posted a 119 wRC+ and 0.8 fWAR in only 130 plate appearances. However, I don’t think he’ll be the Jays best option at second base, even if he starts the season there. The 33 year old is only a slightly above average hitter for his career, and although he offers an exceptional amount of versatility, he is certainly not the best second baseman on the team defensively. I think his best role for the team is filling in when a player needs a day off or is injured. He’s not a bad player to have on the 26-man by any means, but he’s also not good enough to start.
2023 Projection: 91 wRC+, 2 OAA, 0.7 WAR
10. Santiago Espinal, R/R, INF
Fresh off an all-star appearance in 2022, Espinal looks to build off a season that was already fairly strong. He tailed off big time in the second half and may have lost his spot in the starting lineup to Whit Merrifield, but he can certainly play himself back into the starting 2B job. Espinal is pretty clearly the better of the two defensively, and so even average hitting will probably earn him the right to at least platoon with the left handed Cavan Biggio. His added power was touted in the first half, but it faded late in the year. Perhaps the toll of his first full MLB season got to him, and the offseason might help him regain some of that pop that found him in the ASG last year.
2023 Projection: 101 wRC+, 7 OAA, 1.6 WAR
9. Cavan Biggio, L/R, UTIL
The shift ban is here, and so is Cavan Biggio’s time to earn a starting job. The 27 year old was actually quite good last year in only 300 PA’s, with a better full campaign than Whit Merrifield. It would seem as if he bottomed out in 2021, and it appears as though he’s back on the way up. With the Jays lineup still light on lefties, he seems to have an in. Additionally, with she shift ban, he’s got a great chance to simply be the best offensive option the Jays have at second. He also flashed big time defensive potential in 2022, with 7 OAA at second. Let’s see if he can take the next step.
2023 Projection: 109 wRC+, 4 OAA, 1.9 WAR
8. Danny Jansen, R/R, C/DH
Jansen’s not going to get an opportunity to catch enough to bring his value much higher than this, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has the potential to fully establish himself as a fantastic hitter. The 140 wRC+ he posted last year might have been slightly higher than his true talent, but he deserved that production, at least last year. He’ll also get some opportunity to catch, as Kirk can’t do it every day, nor can anyone. That opportunity prevents his defensive value from fully bottoming out, and he lands here at 8th.
2023 Projection: 116 wRC+, 2.3 WAR
7. Kevin Kiermaier, L/R, CF
Kiermaier’s value is helped massively by the fact that he’s going to be playing CF every day if he can stay healthy (health is assumed in all these projections, as mentioned). He’s past the point of his career at which he was a talented offensive player, but even 10% below average hitting will lead to above average value when you play CF like Kiermaier. His floor is very low, due to both injury risk as well as some signs of defensive regression. However, his ceiling is very high if he can be an average hitter, health permitting. Ultimately, he’ll probably land somewhere in the middle, but the defensive regression is a scary possibility.
2023 Projection: 88 wRC+, 5 OAA, 3.0 WAR
6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., R/R, 1B
Gasp. The Jays first baseman has a case to be the most talented player on the roster, but in terms of value, that case isn’t there. First base limits him significantly, and it remains to be seen if his 2021 was an anomaly, or if it’s repeatable. The truth about Vladdy’s production probably lies somewhere between 2021 and 2022. If he’s closer to the former, then he’ll easily turn out to be at or near the top of the list. If not, he could easily sink lower. 2023 will be a big season for the first baseman who needs to prove just how valuable he is, before free agency begins to creep up.
2023 Projection: 137 wRC+, 0 OAA, 3.7 WAR
5. George Springer, R/R, OF
Injury concerns notwithstanding, Springer projects to continue his near HOF pace in 2022. He projects to move to a corner, both for the sake of durability and the fact that the Blue Jays now have two players who probably play a better CF. That’ll hurt his value, but it might help him offensively. Ultimately, he’s as steady as it’s come for the Jays since signing for the team, when healthy. There’s no reason to expect that to change in 2022.
2023 Projection: 139 wRC+, 5 OAA, 3.9 WAR
4. Bo Bichette, R/R, SS
This was probably the toughest choice for me. Bichette was, at best, average for the majority of 2022. Eventually, he broke through, and finished the year on an unbelievable tear. It brought his numbers even above what they were in 2021. It is very hard for me to evaluate who Bichette is as a player. His all-or-nothing approach at the plate makes him prone to extended slumps like the one he suffered in the early months last season, but it also gives him the ability to catch fire like he did in September. To some extent, I think pitchers have a a better idea how to deal with him now than they did before, as there are large holes in his approach. They need to be fixed on a long term basis before Bichette can be proclaimed amongst the league’s elite, but he definitely has that potential.
2023 Projection: 115 wRC+, -2 OAA, 4.0 WAR
3. Alejandro Kirk, R/R, C
Well that was certainly a breakout. Kirk’s 2022 was nothing short of elite, as he established himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the league. He struggles with volume behind the dish, but he’s a very good defender at a very valuable position to boot. There’s somehow still room for growth offensively, and freeing up the DH spot a bit more by trading Hernandez and Gurriel helps with the volume problem. There’s really no reason that Kirk can’t continue to get better, especially at only 24 years old. He’s another player who could end up higher on this list after the season ends, without much of a problem.
2023 Projection: 130 wRC+, 4.4 WAR
2. Matt Chapman, R/R, 3B
Chapman finally got his groove at the plate back after dealing with hip issues for a few years. However, he suffered from a surprising drop off defensively, and it’s so out of character for the third baseman that I’m willing to chalk it up to largely variance. A shift ban might also help him show off that arm a little more, and I don’t think there’s any reason his defensive metrics won’t rebound. Should the offence hold, he could return to the league’s elite. Based on defensive value and offensive talent, he’s a significant step above everyone else listed thus far. Let’s just hope he shows it.
2023 Projection: 119 wRC+, 10 OAA, 5.6 WAR
1. Daulton Varsho, L/R, OF
Fresh out of Arizona and primed to make an impact, Varsho has an opportunity to walk into the Jays lineup as the most valuable player in it. Chase Field in Phoenix is one of the more cavernous ballparks in baseball, and Varsho’s about to be given a chance to really show just how powerful he can really be. There’s been a lot of dialogue about how playing primarily LF instead of RF will hurt his value, but WAR does not adjust the two of them differently whatsoever, so that’s not a problem. He’s an amazing baserunner who’s going to be gifted bigger bases and a left handed hitter who’s also going to be gifted a shift ban. His defensive value is second to very few if any, and his offensive value might be about to take a gargantuan step forward. If it does, he will be the best player on the roster at only 26 years old, with 4 years of control. This is a bullish projection, to say the least, but Jays fans should be loving this trade.
2023 Projection: 126 wRC+, 17 OAA, 7.1 WAR
That’s a wrap. As I mentioned earlier, pitchers are next, as the Jays staff looks to build on a promising 2022.
Thanks for reading! All stats via FanGraphs.
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