The consensus amongst the Blue Jays fanbase heading into the 2022 campaign was that Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal would share the reps at second base.
The thought was that manager Charlie Montoyo could play the lefty/righty splits depending on the opposing pitcher and potentially use Biggio in a utility role for additional off-days of other regular players as required. This makes sense considering Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are staying put at their respective positions and trading for Matt Chapman solidified third base at least for the next two years.
Fast forward to the midway point of June, and things look a bit different than how many fans would have predicted. Biggio struggled to open the season and had to spend some time in Triple-A after a COVID-IL stint to find his bat and receive regular playing time. He has been a different player since his return, bringing his batting average closer to the Mendoza line at .188 but still putting forth a .341 OBP and a .631 OPS, attributed mostly to his 14 walks through 29 games.
Espinal on the other hand has emerged as one of the top players on the Blue Jays roster so far this season and has run away with the second base position. He currently leads the team in fWAR at 2.1 and owns a 125 wRC+ on the year. His .292/.344/.433 slash line is one of the best on the squad this season and he has been solid on defense too, sporting a .990 fielding percentage with 6 OAA and 5 DRS at second base through 57 games.
Between is strong offensive start to the season, paired with his elite defense, Santiago Espinal could be in line to make the first All-Star appearance of his career.
Comparing Espinal to the rest of the AL
Compared to the rest of the American League second baseman, he sits just behind Jose Altuve for OPS (.787) and OBS (.344) but leads the league with his .292 batting average. The Dominican product also ranks third in terms of RBI (31) and SLG (.433). Looking at the statcast metrics, he currently sits in the 86th percentile when it comes to xBA and the 98th percentile in Out Above Average.
Keeping in mind the Midsummer Classic is right around the corner, Espinal is right in the mix when it comes to potentially finding a spot on the AL roster in Los Angeles. His biggest competition will be Altuve and Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andres Gimenez, who is right up there on the leaderboards as well, but Espinal stands a shot if he can continue to play with the same consistency.
From the start of the season to now, Santiago Espinal has been one of the biggest surprises on the Blue Jays roster. He has been an absolute force at second base to the point where the Jays can look to shore up other areas on the roster at the trade deadline and leave Espinal on the right side of second to do his thing. Espinal can be trusted to lead off the batting order or follow after the big guns, and he continues to find ways to put the ball in play.
Overall, the former Red Sox prospect has really turned into a key player for the Blue Jays roster this season and if he continues this trend, Santiago Espinal could be named to his first All-Star squad later next month.