Options aplenty for Blue Jays backup outfield battle


With Michael Saunders going on a power binge this Spring Training (3 homers in 17 at bats), it seems as though the debate over who will be starting in left field has been settled. The attention has now turned to the question of who will win the backup outfield spot for the Toronto Blue Jays.

As spring continues to progress, the time will soon come for decisions to be made. And with multiple outfielders in camp on non-roster invites, as well as the 7 outfielders already on the Blue Jays 40-man roster, John Gibbons and his staff will have plenty of candidates with varying profiles to choose from.

This article will go into each players outlook so far this spring (excluding the players who are a few years off like Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith Jr.), as well as their likelihood of making the Opening Day roster.

Likelihood: Pretty Darn Good

Ezequiel Carrera

When looking over this list of players, two things seem to jump out at me. First, Carrera is the most likely candidate of them all to make the Blue Jays out of the gate as the fourth outfielder. And second, that Carrera may also be the least exciting option of the 5 apparent candidates.

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That being said, he comes with many appealing traits. Along with serving serious time with the Blue Jays last season (192 plate appearances over 91 games) while performing admirably in that time, he also offers a solid blend of batting ability, speed, and defence.

While Carrera’s best tool isn’t his bat, it played up sufficiently, finishing up with a batting line of .273/.321/.372 and a wRC+ of 90. And although his speed didn’t play into many stolen bases (2 in 3 attempts in the 2015 season), he has generally been rated positively on the base paths.

The most appealing trait for the Blue Jays, is Carrera’s defensive versatility. Having two corner outfielders in Saunders and Bautista that will likely need plenty of opportunities to rest when necessary, so the fact that Carrera can play all three outfield positions to be all the more appealing.

The one thing that may work against him is the fact that he bats lefty (the Blue Jays will likely be looking for a right hander to back up Saunders against tough lefties), but this likely won’t a deal buster.

Junior Lake

All throughout his career, Junior Lake has been a bit of an enigma. Coming up as a highly touted prospect for the Chicago Cubs, it was expected his game would come with a superb blend of power and speed. Following a successful debut season with the Cubs in 2013, Lakes inability to follow that up the next two seasons coupled with the plethora of prospects already in Chicago’s possession led to him being shipped to the Baltimore Orioles.

Lake continued to struggle with Baltimore’s triple-A squad and he eventually ended up with the Toronto Blue Jays. Now playing in his first Spring Training with the Blue Jays, Lake has gotten in 14 AB’s so far, gathering 3 hits. As the spring progresses and Lake collects more time at the plate, keep your eye on how he performs as he looks to grab himself a job with the Blue Jays.

Like Carrera, Lake possesses the ability to play all over the outfield. That coupled with Lake’s intriguing potential, and the Blue Jays apparent ability to win big on late bloomers like Encarnacion and Bautista, all adds up to a chance that you will see Lake sitting on the bench Opening Day.

Likelihood: So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?

Dominic Brown

Very akin to Junior Lake, Domonic Brown came into the Major Leagues seen as the future of his team’s outfield (in Brown’s case it was the Philadelphia Phillies). And just like Lake, Brown had one good season but couldn’t back it up and lost his spot on the team because of it.

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And just like Lake, Browns career year came in 2013. In Browns case it led to an All-Star selection, on the back of 27 home runs and 65 runs driven in. Even with those gaudy numbers, the peripheral stats left a lot to be desired. And as many predicted, those peripherals told the correct story as his game fell to pieces in the two seasons that followed.

The similarities with Lake don’t end there, as he also presents an exciting power and speed package. But unlike Lake, he bats left-handed, and this is something that could work against any player trying to make the Blue Jays as a back up outfielder. As well his inability to play centre field will harm his chances.

So far this spring the power hasn’t shown, although he has driven in four runs so far. Keep an eye on Brown as March goes on, because if he starts to rake his chances to make the team will skyrocket.

Darrell Ceciliani

In case you haven’t noticed a pattern so far, this list has been littered with former top prospects who fizzled out. In the case of Darrell Ceciliani he didn’t so much fizzle out, but he is another talented minor leaguer whose original team let him get away.

Getting in only 75 at-bats with the big league squad, Ceciliani struggled in his debut season to the tune of a .206/.270/.279 batting line. But like many younger players (he is 25 years old) the early showings in The Show don’t tell the whole picture. Ceciliani has been a constant stud in the minor leagues, topping out in 2015 with a stellar batting line of .345/.398/.581 as well as a wRC+ of 157.

And although he bats lefty, he can play centre field, and Ceciliani definitely helped his chances this spring with a grand slam home run against the Minnesota Twins on March 6th.

Look for the Blue Jays to stash Ceciliani in Triple-A with the promise of a callup should an injury arise should he not make the club out of camp.

Next: Blue Jays trade value rankings

Likelihood: Better Luck Next Time

Dalton Pompey

Going into the 2015 season, Dalton Pompey cracked camp with the Blue Jays, and it was generally agreed it would be his year to shine in The Show. But things didn’t go as planned, and Pompey soon found himself buried in the minors (going first to Triple-A before being demoted to Double-A and subsequently being reassigned to Triple-A).

The higher ups with the Blue Jays have decided that in the best interest of Pompey’s development, he would be best served to get regular playing time. With the Blue Jays having their starters seemingly set for 2016, it isn’t likely that will come in the majors unless injuries hit.

So logic would dictate that he would start the year at Triple-A, with a keen eye kept on him to continue to develop into the future star many have thought he could be.