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The 2023 Toronto Blue Jays Report Cards: Bench Players

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Photo credit:John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Prasad
4 months ago
We’ve maneuvered through the Blue Jays infield, outfield, and starting pitching report cards. An important evaluation to focus on, especially moving into this off-season, will be the Blue Jays bench and reserves. We’ll look at Santiago Espinal, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Belt, and rookie Davis Schneider in this article. 
Gradings:
A – Exceeded expectations with a significant contribution. This player was among the most valuable on the team.
B — Contributed to the overall success of the club. This player excelled offensively or defensively at a level around what was expected.
C – Contributions were satisfactory. This player was around league average and didn’t make the team worse but didn’t reach expectations.
D – Contributions were minimal. This player did not hold the weight of their position and considerations for next season must be reviewed. 

Santiago Espinal – Grade: C

Espinal entered the 2023 season with a role primarily off the bench. His potential from an advanced metrics standpoint was promising if he acquired more playing time, however, he only saw 93 games with 254 plate appearances.
That being said, his numbers followed accordingly, decreasing from his all-star 2022 season. Batting his career lowest .248, he finished with only 57 hits, two home runs, and 25 RBIs. Espinal’s defence was fine, however, his offensive performance was not a hard contributing factor, but nonetheless an average expected contribution. His statistics may have been more of a factor with more time in the lineup.

Whit Merrifield – Grade: B

This guy is probably one of the smartest baseball players on the field at a given time. His IQ of the game and his situational awareness are very evident in every play he’s involved in, this also translates on the offensive side. His at-bats were of very high quality, with substance behind scenario-based hitting, which led him into the starting lineup. 
Merrifield hit .272 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs, including 27 doubles. His value also shined on the base pads, getting good looks, good jumps, and swiping his fourth career-high 26 stolen bases. Merrifield was a contributor in multiple ways when in the ball game, living up to a “B” grade.

Brandon Belt – Grade: C

An experienced bat with multiple World Series rings brought Toronto some left-handed power from Brandon Belt. His clutch-like at-bats brought Toronto within tying and winning deficits when it mattered at many points during the dog days of summer.
Belt started off slow and slumpy but amped it up after the month of April to finish with 19 home runs and 43 RBIs along with an .856 OPS. That said, Belt also missed much of September with a combination of illness and injury, so the Blue Jays lost a key bat at a key time. His 141 strikeouts to 61 walks left something to be desired, as well. 

Davis Schneider – Grade: B

It didn’t take much for this rookie to shine as Scheider’s productive bat would awaken the team’s sleeping offence when he was called up in August. He finished with a slash line of .276/.404/1.008 with 32 hits eight home runs, 20 RBIs, and scored 23 times. Schneider was often times the offensive fire starter and came up in quiet situations. His next full season will be one to watch. 

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