Blue Jays: Hoping for one more shot for Dalton Pompey
There was a time when Dalton Pompey was the number two rated prospect in the Blue Jays organization, and it would be great to see him get one more shot in Toronto.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly four full seasons since the Blue Jays started their 2015 campaign with a talented rookie in centre field. That year they were hoping that 22 year old Dalton Pompey would be able to handle the pressures of playing for the only team in his home country, as well as the general rigours of being a starting centre fielder in the big leagues.
Unfortunately his MLB career got off to a rocky enough start that he was shipped back to Triple-A to get his performance on track, and in the mean time a young outfielder by the name of Kevin Pillar started making a name for himself as “Superman” in centre field. Pompey was never able to regain the job in a year that saw the Blue Jays return to the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades, with Pillar as the outfield anchor.
In fact, after his demotion to Triple-A, Pompey continued to struggle and was even sent to Double-A for a while in order to get things going. It was a set back for him personally and within the organization’s depth chart, but at 22 it wasn’t anything that he or the club should have been worried about just yet.
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Pillar continued to solidify himself as an everyday outfielder in 2016 while Pompey toiled in Triple-A Buffalo waiting for an opportunity. He was solid that year slashing .270/.349/.353 in 93 games, but with the presence of Pillar and veteran corner outfielders Jose Bautista, Ezequiel Carrera, and Melvin Upton, he was left in Triple-A for all but eight games in a September call-up.
I thought 2017 was going to be the season that we saw him reclaim his spot in the Blue Jays outfield, and I firmly believe he was on the way to doing just that with the way he was performing that spring. After a short, but dominant stint in the World Baseball Classic, he was unfortunately hurt while sliding into second on a stolen base attempt. The play left him with a concussion, that combined with a knee injury later on in the year, wiped out most of his season and left the talented outfielder and the organization wondering when, or even if we would see him back on the diamond again.
Fortunately the Mississauga native was able to recover from the injuries that took him away from all but 13 games in 2017. That doesn’t mean 2018 was a cakewalk though either, as he sustained a torn thumb ligament in June, and received a short suspension for an altercation with his manager in Triple-A, but at least the now 25 year old played in 52 games around the missed time, and got through the season without any reported issues from his concussion.
It wasn’t perfect, but it could have been viewed as something to build on going into 2019, especially for an organization that could have an opportunity to move up the outfield depth chart and earn playing time. We’ve watched Billy McKinney unexpectedly do just that since his arrival in a trade with New York, and there was no reason to think that Pompey couldn’t have earned the same opportunities next spring and early into the 2019 season.
That was before the September call-ups were made though, with the first round bringing up everyone on the 40 man roster with the exception of Pompey, and fellow outfield prospect Anthony Alford. It made some sense considering the Blue Jays were already carrying Pillar, McKinney, Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Dwight Smith, and Jonathan Davis, and there is only so much playing time to go around. However, when Alford was called up on Monday and Pompey was the last remaining player on the 40 man roster without getting that opportunity, it might signal something else for the Canadian talent.
For what it’s worth, I hope the Blue Jays keep him around for 2019 and he works his way into an opportunity with the big league club. He’s a talented player who has received the short end of the stick with injuries, and especially with how they’ve lined up to the opportunities that have come open in Toronto. He’s also an exceptional human being, routinely offering his time to youth baseball organizations without drawing attention to himself, and even touching my life personally in a way that I’ll keep to myself for now. He’s just a good human being, even if a short suspension this year tarnished his otherwise excellent image.
I’ve always felt that he had the skillset that the Blue Jays have long been missing in the outfield, and at the top of the lineup. A switch-hitter with speed, the ability to take a walk, and the potential to be a defensive asset in centre or an outfield corner. On paper things should have worked so much better by now, but things don’t always go that easily for top prospects in baseball.
Whether he plays in the Blue Jays organization next year or not, I hope that the former 16th round pick finds his way into the potential he’s always flashed. I personally hope that still happens for him as a Blue Jay, because something tells me he’s still got a bright career ahead of him, even if it’s had a pretty rocky beginning.