Entering the 2014 season, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Dalton Pompey was starting to put himself on the prospect map. His 2013 season, when he slashed .261/.358/.394 and won a minor league Gold Glove in his second tour with the Lansing Lugnuts, had started to turn some heads. That performance jumped him into the top 20 rankings with the organization, with MLB.com putting him at #19 (Jays Journal had him at #17 and Blue Jays From Away had him at #9).
Thus far in 2014, Dalton Pompey has used that jump and pushed himself even further. With a promotion to Dunedin to start the season, the 21-year-old center fielder is off to a fantastic start. In 24-games, Pompey is slashing a robust .358/.440/.484 with 14 stolen bases (0 CS) and is once again playing flawlessly in the outfield. The going consensus is that Pompey is a prospect to watch, not just in the Blue Jays system, but throughout baseball.
In fact, Jeff Passan at Yahoo included Pompey in his minor league heat seeker post on Wednesday, with some of the game’s biggest prospects including Gregory Polanco, Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Oscar Taveras. That’s some pretty solid company to keep! Passan had this to say about Pompey:
"With Colby Rasmus an impending free agent, Pompey is looking like the Blue Jays’ center fielder come 2016. And that talent, at that position, in a switch hitter – he’s stronger from the left side but plans on staying switch – screams potential star."
Before he rockets out of our reach, Dalton took a moment to answer a few questions from the Jays Journal staff, ranging from his Canadian lineage to pride in his defense and even touching on walk-up music. So Jays Journal readers, and fellow Blue Jays fans, are you ready to get to know a little bit about Dalton Pompey from the man himself?
JJ – After receiving the call that you had been drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, how important was it for you as a Canadian to be selected by Canada’s only representative in MLB? How important will it be for you to reach the Majors with Toronto and represent your country?
DP – At the moment I was drafted, I didn’t really care who the team was. The first time scouts ever saw me was 3 months prior to the draft so getting picked at all was just a thrill in itself. Then it set in that it was the Blue Jays that drafted me and that made it even more special. Growing up, I never dreamed I would have the chance to play for the Blue Jays. As I move up the ladder I realize that I’m closer to reaching that dream of playing for the team I grew up watching. I see myself in their uniform and on that field. The visualization is powerful and it drives me to be better everyday.
JJ – You are currently part of a pretty dynamic line-up in Dunedin, with you, Dwight Smith Jr., Derrick Chung, Emilio Guerrero, and Jorge Flores. What does it mean playing with a deep line-up and how does that influence the way you play?
DP – We have a great team, I think why we have been successful is everyone knows their roles. Since most of us have played together at some point we understand each other and can feed off that. We all offer a little something to help the team win and that’s what its all about… Winning.
JJ – I spoke with (just promoted) Dunedin pitcher Matt Boyd last week about having core behind him. On the same note, how does it feel having such a competent pitching staff in front of you, headlined by Boyd and Daniel Norris, and has a big-time arm in Kendall Graveman on the way?
DP – Our pitching has been outstanding this season thus far, specifically the starting pitching. Last year in Lansing our starting pitching struggled a bit so it was tough to stay in ball games. This year, with guys like Boyd, Norris, Cole, etc pitching well and giving us a chance to win every game, it helps a lot with our overall confidence as a whole.
JJ – You took home a Minor League Gold Glove from Rawlings for your work in the outfield last season. How important is it for you to be a complete player and how much pride do you take in your defense?
DP – Receiving the Gold Glove award was a credit to the work I put in on defense everyday. In baseball, it’s impossible to do well with the bat every single day but if you can offer some sort of value to the team, then you are worth being put in the line up everyday. I take tremendous pride in my defense because I feel as though I always have something to offer the team regardless if I’m hitting or not. But I couldn’t have won that award without the help of my teammates last year. Even though my name is on the trophy I share that award with them. We all worked hard on our defense and as the year progressed we definitely all got better. They saved my butt on a few occasions so I’m grateful for that as well.
With Colby Rasmus an impending free agent, Pompey is looking like the Blue Jays’ center fielder come 2016. And that talent, at that position, in a switch hitter – he’s stronger from the left side but plans on staying switch – screams potential star. – Jeff Passan
JJ – Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus recently said that you had “blossomed into the best positional prospect in the Blue Jays Organization”. That has to feel good knowing that you’re being recognized for your efforts. How does that motivate you moving forward?
DP – It’s always nice to be recognized for your efforts. I love hearing what people have to say, good or bad because it is all constructive criticism to me. I’m always motivated to prove people wrong and for those who believe in me to prove them right. I’ve never doubted my abilities, I just battle myself every day to be consistent with them. I’ll continue to do what I think is best for me regardless of what others have to say about me.
JJ – What kind of things are the team working with you on to help aid your development as a switch hitter? What you have been able to accomplish thus far has been very impressive to say the least. We have read online your parents played a role in you becoming a switch hitter. Feel free to elaborate on that.
DP – Switch hitting is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do in baseball and will continue to do for the rest of my career. It’s very frustrating because most guys have only one swing to worry about and master. I have two that I continuously have to improve and maintain. I go through stretches where I’ll be hitting well from one side and not the other but I continue to grind. The advantages of switch hitting is well worth the added work in the end.
I have been switch hitting since I was 3 years old. My mom had read in a magazine that it was good for your kid to start switch hitting so that’s what I did. Growing up I would alternate sides no matter if it was a right or left handed pitcher just to keep them both sharp. Now its not like that, I get more at bats left-handed so I try to take a lot more reps right-handed to keep it ready for when the situation presents itself.
JJ – What do you see as the next big step needed in your development? Has the organization asked you to work on anything in particular?
DP – The biggest step in my development has to be mentally. Last year I was very negative and that way of thinking only brought me down. I’ve continued to work on taking the positives from every game or situation and feeding off that. Not letting the past dictate what I’m going to do in the future. Its tough because this is a game of failure. However, when you are learn from those failures and are using those lessons to your advantage, it will only make me better in the long run.
JJ – When you arrive in Toronto, what would be your ultimate walk-up song? For the sake of discussion, ignore the silly 15-second rule MLB put in place.
DP – My first walk up song is going to be “We Made It” by Drake. The journey at that point, through all the blood, sweat and tears of the minor leagues would be well worth it. With my family and friends there to support me, I can finally say we made it. As a fellow Canadian, it’s only fitting to have Drake as my walk out too.
JJ – Your base-running tool is touted by all the scouts that watch you and you steal a lot of bases, rarely getting caught. What is the key to your success? Do you try to get a read off the pitcher? Study the arm strength of the opposing catcher? etc.
DP – I’ve been told you don’t have to be a fast runner to be a good base-runner and that is 100% true. It is about being smart on the bases and not running into outs. Stealing bases doesn’t come down to how fast you are, there are a lot of variables that go into it. You have to know what you can or cannot run on. If the pitcher is 1.25 seconds to home or slower I have a chance, if not I don’t run. If I don’t get a good jump, I don’t run. I always try to pick good counts to run on when I might think the pitchers going to be throwing an off speed pitch. Maybe I pick up something from the pitcher that tells me when he’s going to pick off or go home with the pitch. Knowing who is hot and who is not. The situation will also dictate what I do on the bases. When I steal bases I try to make sure I have a very good chance of making it to the next base, if not, I stay where I am and wait to be driven in by one of my teammates.
JJ – If our math is correct (and that can be suspect at times), you are approaching your rule 5 year, which means you need to get added to the 40-man roster this winter. How important is it as a ballplayer to get past the hurdle?
DP – I’ve heard a lot about the rule 5 draft. That’s cool and all, but I try to just focus on what I need to do to be successful. In the end, all that stuff will work itself out.
Thank you again Dalton, for taking the time to let us get to know you. We wish you the best of luck moving forward and we’ll be looking for you in Toronto in the near future.