2) The value of defence
On a surface level, the competition between Pompey and Saunders has often been laid out with simpler counting stats. Batting average, on-base percentage (especially given the vacant leadoff spot), stolen bases, the list goes on. But why has there been so little love for the glove?
The Chris Colabello and Danny Valencia experiments of 2015 have set the bar in left rather low defensively, and especially in such a strong offensive lineup, Pompey could benefit by being a superior defender to his competitors.
Perhaps more importantly, he’s a natural centre-fielder with the ability to spell off Pillar if and when that is needed.
Pillar appeared in a whopping 159 games last season, but if injury or a day of rest are required, Pompey manning centre is more attractive than the alternatives. How much will that matter to Gibbons and the Jays management?
Granted, Saunders has played over 2000 major league innings in centre-field, but to a UZR/150 of -6.0. In over 1300 innings spent in left, that UZR/150 is a more comfortable 0.9.
Pompey has yet to rack up enough major league innings to produce any meaningful defensive metrics (which are a tricky tool to begin with), but his defence has the potential to be Gold Glove calibre down the road. In fact, as a young prospect with the 2013 Lansing Lugnuts, Pompey earned the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the best defensive centre-fielder in all of minor league baseball.
Next: Factor 3: Fitting into the larger organizational strategy