So, an interesting idea came out of the pilot episode of Jays’ Nest, our new Blue Jays video podcast show. If you haven’t seen or heard it yet, you should really check it out. Among the plethora of discussion was a look at the lineup. The way it looks right now, the Toronto Blue Jays are primed to be an offensive force. There is power galore.
What we were wondering was ‘who would hit in the 2nd spot in the lineup to set the table for the big boys, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. After a couple names were mentioned, Jays Journal’s Justin Jay threw us a name out of left field. Literally. He suggested 22 year old Dalton Pompey. Hmmm…..could this work? Let’s take a look.
And, who could blame him? Martin’s career OBP sits at .354, including an impressive .402! Now, last year’s mark is by far the highest of his career. His 12.8 BB% and K% of 17% are great too. According to Fangraphs.com, when he swings, he makes contact at 80% (88% in the strike zone and 63% out of the zone). He can be a tough out. That’s exactly what you want from a guy hitting after Jose Reyes and before that B.E.D. (get it?) that occupies the middle of the order.
Another idea was to try Maicer Izturis in there. This sounds crazy, but Gibby tried it last season before Izturis blew up his knee. In 5 games, it didn’t prove to be all that successful. He hit .200 with 2 runs an RBI, a walk and 2 strikeouts. His career K% of 10.6 is very appealing. The problem there is the ability to hit for reasonable power. That is not suggest that we need the home runs that will come from behind him, but we’d need extra bases and a career .103 is not going to cut it.
But, Dalton Pompey on the other hand…
First of all, we can really only work with his minor league numbers. 17 games is not much to go on. Pompey’s MiLB OBP sits at .367 hitting at the top of the order! Last season, as he soared through the system, he collected a .317/.392/.469. He showed a nice combination of speed and power with 22 2B, 9 3B and 9 HR. He also collected 43 stolen bases! Imagine that combined with Reyes to create havoc on the basepaths.
With Reyes and/or Pompey on base, you can bet that pitchers will consider throwing quicker to the plate. Anyone want to guess what that means for Bautista et al? And, if you flip that, with Pompey hitting in front of those guys, you can bet pitchers will not want to mess around and risk walking him. He’ll likely see better pitches to hit in the 2nd spot than the projected 8th or 9th.
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When you consider Dalton Pompey for the 2nd spot, you get to move Russell Martin down to 6th. He’d be followed by Dioner Navarro slated to slide in at DH, Michael Saunders and then (probably) Ryan Goins or Maicer Izturis. This version of the lineup creates a more balanced, longer lineup that may be more tough to navigate. Pompey being a switch hitter also helps with this idea.
With Pompey at the bottom, he won’t have much around him to help him grow as a hitter. And, right now, he needs the boost of the top players in the lineup. Fangraphs ranks him quite well at this point in his career: 40/45+ in hitting, 35/40 for game power, 40/45 for raw power and 60/60 for speed. Yes, there is room for improvement, but will he get that at the bottom of the order where he is less likely to get good pitches, etc.? Of course, one idea is to deploy the Tony LaRussa idea of hitting him 9th (ahead of Reyes) to have 2 leadoff hitters in a row. That seems like a waste of Pompey’s total game.
Now, the question that comes up with the notion of moving Pompey to the 2 spot comes when he struggles. He’s 22. He’s played 17 games in at the major league level. He hasn’t had enough opportunity for pitchers to figure him out. What happens when they do? What happens when he struggles? Will John Gibbons stick with him? Will Alex Anthopoulos?
We’ve seen this club attempt to adjust things when they aren’t working out. We can use the revolving door at second base as Exhibit A. They’ve tried Goins, Izturis, Steve Tolleson, Munenori Kawasaki over the last season. We can soon add Devon Travis to that mix. How many trips up and down had Anthony Gose made before he was traded? Should we ask Travis Snider how it went when he struggled?
Regardless of which spot in the order he hits, this organization sent him through their ranks at warp speed. It would be rather odd if they all of a sudden said he needed more time to develop. That is not to say that he is a shoe in for the 2 spot. But, it is to suggest that if he falters there, the club can always drop him in the order to alleviate any pressure on him.
The real question is how much creativity and chance is this team willing to employ? It is clear they are setting themselves up to win now. Perhaps taking a chance on a 22 year old Canadian kid is a bold step in that direction.