Cavan Biggio pushing his boundaries to help Blue Jays through injuries

The 28-year-old utility man has become a player the Blue Jays are counting on in a tight playoff race.

Cavan Biggio pushing his boundaries to help Blue Jays through injuries

For most of the last two seasons Cavan Biggio has had a consistent role with the Toronto Blue Jays, even if his playing time has been sporadic.

Biggio's job has been to fill gaps in the lineup against right-handed pitching — playing whichever of second base, first, or right field was most useful to the team in a particular game. His days as a full-time second baseman ended after 2020, and the everyday third baseman experiment of 2021 is in the rearview mirror.

The 28-year-old has settled into life as a utility man, but injuries to Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman — plus Brandon Belt's recent lack of availability — have forced the Blue Jays to lean on Biggio in ways they haven't in years.

Cavan Biggio has stepped into a crucial role for the Blue Jays lately. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Cavan Biggio has stepped into a crucial role for the Blue Jays lately. (Julio Cortez/AP)

On Monday afternoon he hit second in the lineup — a position believed to be the ideal spot for a team's best hitter — for the second consecutive game. Prior to those contests he hadn't started a game in that position since April 4, 2021.

Last Tuesday he played shortstop for the first time in his MLB career, and after playing just once at third base in 2022, he's appeared at the hot corner in five of his last six appearances.

None of that is good news for the Blue Jays. It indicates that they're missing many of their best offensive weapons and sturdiest defensive options. With Bichette and Chapman out, the team is heavily reliant on its call-ups from Buffalo, and Santiago Espinal has fallen short of expectations offensively and defensively in 2023.

Toronto would like to keep Biggio away from the left side of the infield in the middle of an extremely tight playoff race, and it would prefer to have better top-of-the-lineup candidates. At the same time, Biggio is earning the trust the Blue Jays have bestowed on him in recent days.

Since a disastrous April, the 28-year-old has been solid at the plate with a .247/.347/.396 line — good for a 110 wRC+. He's hardly raking, but in that time span his wRC+ ranks fifth among Blue Jays with at least 100 plate appearances, ahead of bigger names like Chapman, Alejandro Kirk, Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier, Whit Merrifield and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

His solid offensive performance is underpinned by relatively strong Statcast metrics, too. His barrel rate (10.3%) is a career-high, and his sweet spot percentage, hard-hit rate and xwOBA on contact are all higher than they've been since his rookie season. He also produced the hardest-hit ball of his career back in May (109.8 mph).

Biggio has not become a powerhouse at the plate, but he's been reliable with occasional breakthrough moments — like Monday's win when he produced two RBI hits against left-handed pitchers. Not only were those knocks crucial in a one-run battle, it was the first time he'd managed multiple hits off southpaws in a game since May 13, 2021.

On the defensive side, we haven't seen enough of Biggio at third to know if playing him there will come back to bite Toronto, but he's demonstrated competence in limited action, highlighted by a standout play against reigning AL Rookie of the Month Zack Gelof.

Via Baseball Savant
Via Baseball Savant

That's a pretty play all around, but it's especially impressive when you consider that Gelof has 93rd percentile sprint speed.

In the Blue Jays' perfect world they don't need Biggio to play positions that test the boundaries of his arm strength, or hit in one of the most important spots in the lineup. That's not the world they're living in now, though.

While Davis Schneider, Ernie Clement and Spencer Horwitz are justifiably earning headlines for their work keeping the Blue Jays afloat, Biggio is stepping up too.

The utility man has always done precisely what his team has asked of him. Now that it's asking a little bit more, he seems up to the challenge so far.