Justin Jefferson is Batting Clean Up, So Jordan Addison Needs to Pick Up RBIs

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Minnesota Twins
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings were a baseball team, Justin Jefferson would find himself at 4th in the lineup. More often than not, that slot is reserved for the team’s preeminent power hitter, the one capable of hitting dingers like it’s going out of style.

At times, teams decide that the risk of throwing to the clean up hitter is too great. Seeing the ball sent into outer space is a poor outcome, so simply giving the slugger 1st base can be a worthwhile trade off. Guarding against that strategy – the intentional walk to a lineup’s most powerful baseball launcher – often requires having someone who is dangerous with a bat in his hands sitting at 5th in the lineup.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The general idea is that having someone who also has plenty of pop in his bat will make a pitcher think twice about issuing a walk to the clean-up hitter. Don’t want to pitch to Jefferson? Fine, no problem, the next guy in the lineup happens to also be capable of putting the ball over the fence. When he does, it’ll involve bringing around another runner since you already put our slugger on base.

That’s where Jordan Addison is supposed to factor into the equation.

Optimism is high for the young WR. His energy is fantastic and so too is his confidence. The youngster believes he’s an artist with his routes and tells his new GM & HC that it’s time to get paid. Hanging up on his head coach is even more reason to like the young fella. He’s human, he makes mistakes. He’s also confident and a play maker.

Pair of Vikings Draft Picks
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We know with some certainty that Jefferson is going to continue exuding a gravitational pull. Defensive backs are drawn to him, getting their eyes on #18 when they should be focused on other responsibilities. It’s akin to being the clean-up hitter. Rather than face the threat of Jefferson going for a home run trot, the secondary decides they won’t let him do damage, tossing 4 balls (or 2-3 coverage men, as the case may be).

That means Jordan Addison is going to see hittable pitches. He’s going to get one-on-one matchups. Can he make teams pay for taking that approach?

At some point, the hope is that the former Pittsburgh and USC receiver will start to take it personally. Loading up on Jefferson to instead take one’s chances with Addison can be perceived as disrespect. Essentially, the defense is saying Addison is a lesser threat. Use that unsaid proclamation as fuel to carve up a secondary that’s completely overwhelmed by the threats that are present on Minnesota’s offense.

8 Big Storylines for Vikings at Bills
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

A quick look at Baseball Reference tells me that the Twins have some dangerous hitters. Joey Gallo – someone whom Josh Frey told me was a home-run hitter – is putting in work and so too is Byron Buxton, the designated hitter. If the Twins merely had one of those players – Gallo or Buxton – their lineup would be far easier to neutralize. Needing to pitch around both is a much, much more difficult task.

Similarly, the Vikings have a pair of great hitters to offer on Sunday. Placing other hitters like T.J. Hockenson, K.J. Osborn, and several others in the lineup further entrenches Minnesota’s offense as one that’s going to be supremely difficult to pitch around.