Following Jose Bautista’s most recent trip to the DL, the Blue Jays had to promote another outfielder from Buffalo. They already had Darrell Ceciliani on the roster, so opted to call up Junior Lake. That might have been the wrong decision. Dalton Pompey has been in Buffalo all season, but still hasn’t been given a chance with the Jays. This was a prime opportunity to finally bring him up. The Jays know what they have with their replacement-level players. It’s about time that they find out what their outfielder of the future can do.
The Need For Better Defence
It is no secret that the Jays have weak outfield defence. Bordering the outstanding Kevin Pillar, they have two of the weaker defenders in the game. I actually wrote about how Bautista’s defence impacts the team’s options at first base earlier this week. At any rate, Bautista has become a liability in the field. His bat is still fine (though it has been disappointing this season), but the defence should be replaced. It’s concerning that Bautista has now injured himself twice on routine plays in the field. Although he will want to hold his spot as an outfielder to maximize his value as a free agent, it would be detrimental to the Jays’ chances to keep running him out there.
The Usual Replacements
The Jays have cycled through a regular list of minor league outfeilders this season. That list includes Ezequiel Carrera, Junior Lake, and Darrell Ceciliani. As mentioned above, Ceciliani was already with the team prior to Bautista’s injury. Ceciliani and Lake have made a few trips to Toronto, while Carrera has been up all year. One other option is Domonic Brown, who has not yet been called up.
The three Buffalo outfielders offer essentially the same production. Brown was once a standout talent, but has had a steep decline in recent years. The former All-Star has posted a slash line of .241/.312/.343 in the minors this season, which is a far-cry from his prime. Brown has not been called up to the Majors yet, as he would need to clear waivers to go back down to Buffalo. As such, he has essentially spent the season on the farm, waiting for September to roll around. It’s not clear that he will even be called up at that point, though. In terms of defence, it doesn’t help that Brown is a career negative defender. All told, he doesn’t offer much upside for the Jays.
Ceciliani has had a shorter MLB career than Brown, so there is less to judge him on. His slash line from Buffalo reads .268/.331/.444. A concern for Ceciliani is his defence. That was certainly true during Spring Training, and I haven’t seen enough from him to shake that narrative. In fairness, he was fine in limited innings last season. Even so, he hasn’t shown that he can be trusted in an every day role. While he can cover as a replacement in a pinch, it is less than ideal to use him as an everyday player.
The final option is Lake. He has spent the most time of the three with the Jays, though that has still only amounted to 38 underwhelming plate appearances. Lake has also struggled in AAA, with a slash line of .238/.323./.371. Both the eye test and some loose defensive metrics suggest that he is the weakest defender of the three. It always seemed like Lake had the potential to be a decent player, but he now projects to be a career AAAA player. Similar to Ceciliani, I wouldn’t want to see him every day.
Meanwhile, In Buffalo
Kelsie Heneghan – MiLB.com
The Jays have not broadened their options, despite the replacement-level performances from the replacement-level players. That is unfortunate, as Dalton Pompey – who is arguably the team’s 26th man – has been in Buffalo all season. For a time, that made sense, but he should now be in Toronto.
The argument for Pompey to stay in Buffalo has been the same all year. Rather than shuttle him back and forth between AAA and the MLB, it is better for his development to keep him in a rhythm in Buffalo. That is the reason why he was sent to Buffalo in April, rather than use join the Jays as a fourth outfielder. It is also why he hasn’t been called up this season to serve as a temporary replacement for one of the regulars. I buy all of that. But circumstances have now changed such that the argument no longer works.
The Jays have 18 games left in August. Bautista will miss another two weeks, which means that he will only be back for a maximum of seven. That leaves at least 11 games to cover before the rosters expand in September. Pompey will surely be called up once the rosters expand. Why not bring him up now, rather than wait another three weeks?
The former top prospect has had a decent season with Buffalo, with a slash line of .282/.349/.359. He has missed some time this season due to a concussion. The knock against Pompey is that he has yet to hit at the Major League level. But let’s be fair – neither have the other guys this year. In that sense, Pompey wouldn’t be that much of a downgrade from the other options available.
Returning to the initial problem with Bautista, Pompey is actually a plus defender. At a bare minimum, he will improve the defence. His arrival would also allow a Bautista/Encarnacion platoon at first base, and it would put Smoak on the bench. Another benefit that Pompey provides is genuine speed on the basepaths. While Melvin Upton Jr. hasn’t been on base very often since becoming a Blue Jay, his speed sure makes it exciting when he does. Wouldn’t it be great to have two players who can provide that kind of threat?
Building For The Future
Tara Walton – Toronto Star
One last argument in favour of promoting Pompey is next year’s outfield plans. The Shapiro front office has made a series of moves to position themselves for the future. Whether it be the team-friendly contracts for Happ and Estrada, Grilli’s team option, Liriano’s year of control, or the prospects that came with the lefty, management has tried to win both today and tomorrow. That approach is necessary due to the amount of pending free agents this off-season. With Saunders and Bautista near the top of that list, there will almost definitely be an opening for Pompey in 2017.
While the Jays might be able to sign one of Saunders or Bautista, it is unlikely that both will return. It is also unlikely that the Jays will want to spend any significant money on a relatively weak free agent class (though Josh Reddick might be a decent replacement). With that in mind, Pompey seems destined to assume a corner outfield spot next year. The Jays know what they have with Lake, Cecilliani, and Brown, and it isn’t much. At the same time, they still have some questions for Pompey. Rather than hold him off until next season, I would like to expose him to Major League pitching this August, and let him build from there. He is no longer suited to AAA. It’s time that he makes the leap to the top tier.
All of this seems to be a wasted argument, though. It looks like management will stick with their plan of keeping Pompey in Buffalo until September. Do you think that’s the right approach, or should he be facing Major League pitching starting today? Sound off in the comments below.