Lansing Lugnuts center fielder Dalton Pompey (left) and manager John Tamargo after Pompey made it to third base in a game against the Great Lakes Loons on August 10, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Jay Blue
Ok Blue Jays fans. I wasn’t anticipating writing this article on Dalton Pompey quite so soon. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Pompey so much that I have him ranked as my #9 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system. You’ll find out why I have him ranked so highly when you read below but I base my assessment on seeing Pompey play at three different times in the 2013 season: once in Spring Training, over a three-game span in early May in Lansing and again over a two-game span in August. Marc Hulet at Fangraphs had Pompey ranked #13 and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com has him ranked at #15 (although note that Mayo’s writeup comes from before the 2013 season).
Name: Dalton Pompey
Position: Center Field
Date of Birth: December 11, 1992 (21)
Height/Weight: 6’1″/170 lbs
Acquired: 16th round of the 2010 draft
High School: John Fraser SS (Mississauga, ON)
Awards and Accomplishments
- 2013 Midwest League All-Star
- 2013 Midwest League All-Star Game MVP
- 2013 Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award (CF)
- 2013 MiLB.com Toronto Blue Jays Organization All-Star
You can see from Pompey’s awards that he had a very good year in 2013. Dalton is one of a few Canadian prospects who are starting to bubble up within the Blue Jays farm system that are starting to make some noise. You’ll read about another one in a short while but, on the position playing side, Pompey is the Canadian prospect in the Jays system with the most upside.
A rangy center fielder with speed to burn, Pompey has been showing a lot more polish than most people thought this year. While his entire season (his first in full-season ball) was very streaky for the Midwest League’s Lansing Lugnuts, when he was hot, he was an unstoppable force at the plate and on the bases. When the whole thing came to a close, Pompey landed with a .261/.358/.394 slash line that translated into a 115 wRC+ rating (creating runs at a rate 15% better than the league average). When you consider that Pompey wasn’t healthy for at least a month of the year (playing through a broken toe) and he missed most of last year with a wrist injury, his quality performance at the plate is even more encouraging.
Pompey’s strikeout rate of over 20% is a bit concerning but when you consider that he was only 20 years old and playing in full season ball after having missed most of the previous year, you would think that with some more development time, Pompey will figure out how to make a little more contact. In fact, there was some tangible improvement in his strikeout rate throughout the 2013 season. While he posted a rate of 26.4% in April and 25.7% in May, those numbers dropped to 12.6% in June, 20% in July and 18.7% in August (a month in which he walked as many times as he struck out). He’s already taking walks at a very healthy 12.3% rate and, if he remains patient at the plate, there’s no reason why he can’t consistently achieve high on-base percentages to take advantage of his speed.
Which brings us to his speed. When healthy, Pompey has track star speed. I’ve heard of one writer or scout (I can’t remember which one it was) who timed him down to first in 3.7 seconds, which is off the charts, if true. When I saw him in August, he was hobbled by his injury but was still pretty impressive. To go with the speed, Pompey is already a very mature base stealer, swiping 38 bags and getting caught 10 times. Again, from what I could see in August, his injury robbed him of his explosiveness but, even slowed down a little bit, he was still a very efficient base thief.
The last two parts of his game are those that make him an even better prospect in my mind. Pompey has already shown off his outstanding defensive skills. He was named the Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove winner for center field this year: that means that Rawlings and Minor League Baseball felt that he was the best center fielder in ALL of the minors, not just the Midwest League and not just the Blue Jays organization. He didn’t make an error all season and threw out eight runners on the bases.
Most encouragingly, Pompey started hitting for more power towards the end of the season. Of his 22 doubles, nine came after July 1 and so did all six of his home runs including four homers that he hit in the last week of the season. His lowest monthly OBP after May was .394 and his April OBP was .368. It was really his miserable May that saw him hit .158/.239/.228 that brought his whole season down.
For those scouts that love tools, Pompey makes their jaw drop. He’s got big league speed and already plays outstanding defense. What Pompey is trying to do now is polish up the skills that will let his tools show through.
Pompey keeps his hands high at the plate, keeping his weight back and uses just a small knee kick rather than lifting his whole leg before taking a small stride. He’s effective in taking a short path to the ball and is starting to get very good at driving the ball.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
Pompey’s risk levels aren’t all that high. His patience at the plate and his ability to hit the ball hard already bode well. He’s even been cutting down on his strikeouts. The fact is that we have to remember that Pompey will only be 21 for the entire 2014 season and, due to his wrist/hand injury in 2012, only has 914 minor league plate appearances with just 535 in a full-season league.
He’s going to anchor the outfield in Dunedin for at least half a season and, as long as he can show good on-base percentages and solid contact rates (hitting for power is very difficult in the Florida State League), we’ll probably see Dalton in New Hampshire by season’s end. He’s made it through a full season and the training wheels are likely to be off. I can also see Pompey getting a trip to Arizona for the Fall League in 2014 and rising up the prospects lists with a good season. If all goes well, I could see him back home in Toronto at the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016.
If you like what you’ve seen by Jay Blue, read his work and listen to his podcast on Blue Jays from Away and follow him on Twitter: @Jaysfromaway.