Blue Jays prospect Addison Barger to debut; centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier to the IL

EditorLast Update :
Blue Jays prospect Addison Barger to debut; centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier to the IL

Blue Jays prospect Addison Barger will make his MLB debut on Wednesday after the 24-year-old utility player was called up from Triple A to replace centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with left hip flexor inflammation.

Barger will play left field and bat eighth against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Barger, ranked No. 5 on Keith Law’s top 20 Blue Jays prospects, is a left-handed hitter with power. This season, Barger got off to a hot start with the Buffalo Bisons, hitting .314/.435/.586 with 10 doubles and three home runs through 19 games. For a while now, Barger has been sitting on the cusp of the major leagues, but with the Blue Jays’ full MLB roster, his best chance at joining the big club appeared to be as an injury replacement.

Drafted by the Blue Jays in 2018 as a shortstop, Barger has adapted to a utility role in recent seasons, playing a mix of second, third, shortstop and right field. This season in Buffalo, Barger has split his time between third base (87 innings) and right field (40 innings). Barger has not played left field at the professional level to this point.

“He’s played short, third, and right, and has utility value because of the versatility and the power, although he’s not a shortstop except in emergencies and he’s going to have to work at third base as he keeps getting bigger,” Law wrote on Barger. “If he sticks there, he could be a low-OBP 20-homer guy who plays every day. I think a utility role is more likely, as he doesn’t really have a position and the bat might not play every day in right or left.”

Kiermaier landed on the IL after he exited during the sixth inning of the Blue Jays’ 3-2 loss to the Royals on Tuesday with what was initially described as left hip flexor discomfort, according to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. While with the Tampa Bay Rays, Kiermaier had surgery on his left hip during the 2022 season.

With Kiermaier on the IL, the Blue Jays will turn to Daulton Varsho, who will take over primary centre-field duties. While losing Kiermaier is a blow to Toronto’s outfield defence, the Blue Jays enjoy the luxury of having two elite centre fielders, so Varsho can capably replace Kiermaier. Varsho has also been one of the Blue Jays’ hottest hitters lately, slashing .333/.391/.857 with four doubles, six homers, and 13 RBI over his last 13 games.

As for left field, Barger and Davis Schneider will be the leading candidates to earn the most playing time there while Kiermaier is absent. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ernie Clement can play left field, too, while George Springer is also capable of shifting over to centre field, though the Blue Jays may avoid that defensive scheme since they like Springer in right field.

(Photo of Barger from spring training: Kim Klement Neitzel / USA Today)