The addition of Drew Storen will be a significant boost to the Blue Jays bullpen. That said, the loss of Ben Revere leaves the question: Will Pompey or Saunders take over? Where do they fit in the batting lineup?
With Ben Revere now gone, that clears up the logjam that had formed in the outfield, allowing last year’s pickup Michael Saunders a chance to prove he’s a deserving Jay and for Dalton Pompey a chance to step up and prove himself.
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While Saunders brings a career .230 Average, .301 OBP, and an OPS of .682, he had solid year in 2014 with the Mariners posting a .273 Average, a .341 OBP, and an OPS of .791. He’s also averaged nearly 2.0 WAR in his past three full seasons, showing that he can have significant impact at the Major League level. While he would seem the obvious choice to be the Jays’ third outfielder, if the speedy Pompey can prove that his bat is close enough to being ready and begin to recreate the excellent on-base and base-running tools of Revere, he may be given another shot at an everyday position.
While the frontrunners for the outfield gig are clear, the impact on the batting order is still up in the air and Revere was the clear leadoff man in the lineup. Pompey looks like he could be a dynamic front-of-the-line man in the future, but that would require the future to be now. It’s not out of line to think that John Gibbons will slide Troy Tulowitzki into that position, either, as he did just after the shortstop joined the team.
While Tulo didn’t exactly shine in that spot, he didn’t exactly shine as a Jay last year while battling injury. A healthy Tulo means pitchers will have to deal with a juggernaut of a starting four, but that leaves the fifth through nine spots somewhat softer. With this dynamic, Russell Martin and the Justin Smoak–Chris Colabello platoon look poised to fit in at the number five and six spots leaving Pillar, Goins, and Saunders/Pompey to fight over the bottom three spots.
The clearing up of the logjam in the outfield now represents a chance for competition. That means that both Pompey and Saunders know they will have a chance to start and will fight for it, a situation they didn’t necessarily have with Revere. If Saunders shows the same stuff he had in 2014, he could even compete for the fifth and sixth spot in the lineup rather than being stuck in the bottom. With his average defensive skills, this would make Saunders a relevant and welcome addition to the 2016 season.
If Pompey can get into gear, he represents the potential of being a legitimate lead-off hitter. With speed that rivals Revere, if he can find a way on base, he will represent an on-base threat that even Revere couldn’t match. This would fit perfectly given the power that comes behind him. The loss of Ben Revere leaves a question mark for the Blue Jays offensively. But with capable players in the wings, plus productivity from either or both Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey, the Blue Jays may be able to fill that void in a short period of time.