With opening day fast approaching, the Toronto Blue Jays still have several issues to rectify, with the current left field situation particularly standing out.
Spring training can often result in contrasting emotions for teams and their fans. In the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, hopes are high that they will build on two consecutive ALCS appearances and finally return to the World Series in 2017.
However, any such aspirations are tempered by a multitude of questions and issues which need resolving. These include finding the right batting order, if the rotation will be as healthy as last season and how things will pan out at first base.
However, perhaps the biggest concern relates to the conundrum that is left field. The Blue Jays may have a variety of options, but none of them seem particularly reassuring at this point.
Heading into spring training, the thinking was the position would be manned by some combination of Melvin Upton Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera. In an ideal world, one of them would step forward to seize control of the spot.
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In reality though, neither option inspires much confidence. This has only been compounded by inconsistent performances from both players so far in Dunedin.
So what are the alternatives? Recent projections suggest the spot could be given to Steve Pearce, who was acquired last December.
However, while Pearce is expected to be fully fit for opening day, he has been limited to playing DH as he recovers from forearm surgery. The situation could be further compromised if he has to spend time at first base, which is dependent on how Justin Smoak performs. (Pearce may even have to fill in at second base, if Devon Travis is not ready for the start of the season.)
The outsider for left field as of right now, is Dalton Pompey, who entered spring training as a long shot to make the opening day roster. At this point, while undoubtedly having the talent, he has so far failed to live up to expectations in his career at the major league level.
(For the record, the 24-year old is currently also going through MLB’s concussion protocol. He suffered the concussion as a result of sliding headfirst on a stolen base attempt at the WBC.)
Given the situation, it is unsurprising to hear the Blue Jays have been looking to the market for other alternatives. As reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, this includes interest in Kelly Johnson, although to suggest he is the answer in left field seems highly optimistic.
Admittedly, some of this is linked to Johnson’s previous spell in Toronto, in 2011-12. However, it’s also worth noting that despite being a versatile player, a lot of his experience has come as an infielder.
From our perspective, we’ve previously written that Angel Pagan might be the solution. Certainly, the thought of him manning left field inspires more confidence than the majority of the current options.
However, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm recently claimed it was unlikely the Puerto Rican native would end up in Toronto. Chisholm believes adding him could disrupt the competition, although you have to wonder if Pagan’s durability issues are also a mitigating factor.
Overall, there are just too many aspects to consider to get a clear picture, including Upton’s struggles against righties, Carrera being banged up, the likely need for Pearce at other positions and Pompey’s inability to fulfill his potential. As such, it will come as no surprise if the left field position does not solidify itself until well into the season – if at all.
What’s your take in respect of the Blue Jays’ situation in left field? Are you confident with the current options, or would you prefer them to bring in Johnson, Pagan or someone else in particular? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.