As the Toronto Blue Jays try to raise the ceiling of their talent in the outfield, many of their negotiations will be driven by an understanding of where the floor of their in-house talent is.
Kevin Pillar is the only certainty in the current Blue Jays outfield, while Melvin Upton Jr. has a chance to find platoon reps against left-handed pitching. Ezequiel Carrera remains as a valuable depth piece himself, but the organization’s view of Dalton Pompey could be the most important factor when Toronto explores lower-level outfield options.
After his meteoric rise in 2014, expectations were high for Pompey. The past two seasons have caused many to lose sight of the fact that the Canadian outfielder is still just 23, but even coming off a 2016 season spent mostly on the outside looking in at the MLB roster, Pompey is part of the picture.
Batting injuries with triple-A Buffalo last season, Pompey hit .270 with a .349 on-base percentage (.702 OPS) and 18 stolen bases in 25 attempts. His extra-base power wasn’t quite where it was expected to be, which contributed to him being held at the level for much of the year, but as a complete package, there’s reason to believe that Pompey is already viable if free agent options continue to fall through.
Names like Jose Bautista on the open market or Melky Cabrera on the trade market offer a stronger and more certain value, but beyond that, someone like Ben Revere — who is viewed all too commonly as a prime leadoff hitter and defensive wiz due only to his being small and quick — offers little that Pompey can’t.
The market contains a handful of names just like Revere, who reasonably project to be valued somewhere in the neighbourhood of 0.5 to 1.5 WAR.
Say, for a moment, that Pompey were able to transfer his exact slash line from triple-A in 2017 to the MLB level in 2017. The pitching is much stronger but he’ll also be much healthier with another off-season behind him. This isn’t a desirable stat line with the bat by any means, but as Pillar continues to show in centre, a glove can cover up an awful lot.
Pompey’s defence is stronger than he showed in his 2015 audition, and his routes looked more decisive and direct with the Bisons this past season. There are some rough corners to smooth out, of course, but there is excellent potential in that tool with Pompey. When healthy and deployed properly, his base running will also pad his overall value handsomely.
Don’t forget the salary, either. Useful players in pre-arbitration years are what allow teams to properly spend elsewhere.
The ‘sink or swim’ debut (Part 2) will come soon enough for Pompey, and while it doesn’t appear that his opportunity is being made a priority in Toronto, his value gives the Blue Jays a stronger floor than some think.
With this considered, the Blue Jays could adopt a strategy of either striking at the top level of the remaining outfield market or standing pat with a competition in one corner — including Pompey.