Toronto Blue Jays: Is Dalton Pompey the Solution in Left Field?

Mar 4, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Dalton Pompey (23) at bat against the Minnesota Twins at CenturyLink Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Dalton Pompey (23) at bat against the Minnesota Twins at CenturyLink Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Amidst the talk of adding an outfielder like Angel Pagan to solve the glaring hole in left field for the Toronto Blue Jays, specifically against right-handed pitching, a familiar name who could turn out to be the best option for that spot has emerged.

Dalton Pompey, 24, has spent the majority of the last two seasons in AAA, after starting the 2015 season as the starting centre fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays. Like many prospects towards the latter part of former general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure, Pompey was rushed to the big leagues at a young age.

At 21, he started the season in A+ Dunedin, but finished in the big leagues as a September call-up. He succeeded at each level that season, but did not get much time in any of the higher minor league levels.

His 2014 ascension caused the former Toronto Blue Jays regime to hand him the starting centre field spot out of Spring Training in 2015, but he was quickly demoted in April of that year after struggling and losing his spot to Kevin Pillar, and has never been given a real shot since. Prior to the 2015 season he was the 30th ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, but has since seen his stock drop.

Despite unspectacular results in AAA the past two seasons, the Mississauga native is a centre fielder with speed, defensive tools, and the ability to get on base. That mirrors the skill set of a free agent the Jays were after earlier this winter in Dexter Fowler, who ended up signing with the Cardinals, and could be a solid comparison when trying to think of Pompey’s ceiling.

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That brings us to 2017 and the left field problems. Manager John Gibbons was recently quoted as saying the left field situation as of right now appears to be a platoon of Melvin Upton Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera.

While it makes sense to have a platoon of a right-handed hitter and a left-handed hitter, history suggests that neither of those two can hit right-handed pitching. So that specific platoon likely means that performance against RHP will be a weakness.

That is where Pompey, assuming his recent concussion issues at the World Baseball Classic can be overcome prior to the start of the season, might be able to come in and save the day. Aside from making his mark so far in spring action with good performance in a very small sample size, he is a switch hitter with speed and good plate discipline.

He has hit right-handed pitching better in the minors than left-handed pitching, though he looks like he could handle both sides without being platooned long-term. He is exactly the type of player the Jays need; it is just a matter of whether he is ready both performance-wise and mentally.

Offensively, Pompey’s projected to be below average in 2017 by most projection models.

Steamer: 90 wRC+
ZiPS: 73 wRC+
Depth Charts: 81 wRC+

His wRC+ totals in AAA of 114 in 2015 and 106 in 2016, combined with painfully low power numbers (.071 and .083 ISO’s in 2015 and 2016 respectively), make those lukewarm MLB projections for 2017 fairly reasonable. However, the upside for improvement is most certainly there, and if he does win the left field spot to begin the season, he will have to outperform those projections.

Right now, Pompey is all upside and projection. The results the past two seasons, while good in some respects, have not been where the Jays would have liked.

His offence could come in time, or it may not come at all. However, where his tools could compensate a lot for that is on the defensive end and his base running.

The team saw first-hand what type of difference-making speed Pompey has in the 2015 ALCS. He came in as a pinch runner for Russell Martin in the 9th inning of Game 6, an elimination game where the Jays were down one, and promptly stole two bases with relative ease.

Defensively there have been questions, not about Pompey’s defensive ability, but rather his focus and mental aspects of the game. Whether that is fixed is up to the team to decide, but the defensive tools are there.

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Last season, the Jays traded for Jesse Chavez and signed Gavin Floyd to compete with Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez for the final rotation spot. Sanchez looked like he was destined for the bullpen to begin the season, but ended up winning the spot and turning into one of the best pitchers in the league.

That happened after turning the corner, improving in practically every aspect of his game, and earning a spot out of Spring Training. Fast forward one year, and the Jays have two replaceable veterans slated to platoon in left field in Upton Jr. and Carrera. Could lightning strike twice?

The arguments against Pompey in left field, at least to begin the season, have little to do with him as a player. He has options remaining, so he can be sent down without having to clear waivers (unlike Carrera).

Also, the Jays have an outfielder who figures to start everyday against left-handed pitching (Upton). So, the question of whether it would be good for Pompey’s development to be in a platoon role would have to be considered.

Regardless, having  Pompey win a spot out of Spring Training would not only potentially improve an on-field position, but also provide a jolt of youth and athleticism to an aging roster. He seems like the ideal player with the ideal skill set to take this job and run with it. Ultimately it is up to him to seize the opportunity.

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Now it is just a matter of whether Pompey’s recent set back in the WBC is temporary or something that may cost him some much needed Spring Training time to win a roster spot. He can always start in Buffalo and come up during the season, but a Carrera/Upton platoon in the outfield may cause fans to want his promotion to come much sooner than that.