The 23-year-old outfielder started the 2015 season as the Blue Jays’ opening day centre-fielder. After struggling with that initial opportunity, the former 16th-round draft pick has had limited opportunities in the big leagues since.
Dalton Pompey has been on the radar of Blue Jays fans for a few seasons now. As a gifted Canadian baseball player, fans north of the border have pined to see him flourish for Canada’s only team, only to see him spend most of his young career in the minor leagues thus far. He was given the opportunity to run with the CF job at the beginning of the 2015 season, but he struggled before being sent back to triple-A.
For the 2015 season, Pomey hit .223/.291/.372 with two home runs, eight doubles and five stolen bases. He was hitting below the Mendoza line at .193 when he was sent down, but managed to add some counting stats when he was recalled in September. The Blue Jays may have been able to live with some struggles at the plate, but when he lost confidence in the outfield it was clear he needed more seasoning in Buffalo.
One of the biggest obstacles for Pompey’s return to the majors has been the play of Kevin Pillar.
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Pillar started the 2015 as the 4th outfielder, but took over in CF after Pompey’s demotion and quickly established himself as one of the best defensive players in baseball. Pompey’s skill set could allow him to become a similar player, but it’s hard to deny the two consecutive Gold Glove nominations Pillar has received.
The Mississauga native hasn’t forced the hand of the Blue Jays either, which leads to some questions for his future. In 2016, he batted .270/.349/.353 in triple-A Buffalo with four home runs, 14 doubles and 18 stolen bases in 337 at-bats. Those numbers aren’t bad by any means, but it would be nice to see him putting up that line in Toronto, rather than in AAA.
The Blue Jays currently stand to lose Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders in free agency, although they haven’t ruled out bringing back either player. Assuming they both sign elsewhere, the Blue Jays will need to fill at least one corner OF position, if not both. They do have Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton returning who may cover one spot, but that’s not guaranteed either.
If Pompey was truly ready to make an impact at the highest level, you’d have to think the Blue Jays would be itching to put his name in the lineup everyday. He possesses a lot of the skills that they covet on the open market, but he just hasn’t been able to perform consistently enough to be trusted. If he’s not going to factor into the outfield for 2017, what do they have planned for the Canadian?
Perhaps that question gets answered in spring training or sometime during the season, but for now one has to wonder what the future holds for Pompey. If he’s not going to get the opportunity in the MLB, what does he have left to accomplish in triple-A?
As much as Jays’ fans love the idea of having Canadian stars on the roster, the time may have come to be open to trading the young outfielder. His stock has certainly fallen in the last couple seasons, but he’s still a gifted, multi-tooled player who could impact a MLB roster. It doesn’t appear that the Blue Jays are interested in watching his growing pains, and to be fair, they’re not exactly in a position to do so if they want to make the playoffs for a third straight season.
It’s very likely Pompey starts the 2017 back in Buffalo looking to either force his way on the Blue Jays’ roster, or perhaps establish some trade value. Depending on what the Blue Jays can do in free agency or trade, the switch-hitting outfielder could have a shot to earn his way into the lineup with a strong spring training performance.
While he’s only 23, he’s entering the stage of prospect status when he’ll need to perform, or risk being overlooked going forward. Here’s hoping we’ve yet to see the best of him in a Blue Jays uniform.