Hi, I’m Matt. You may know me from “Dalton Pompey Unjustly Demoted to AAA“, in addition to a host of other pieces in which I’ve advocated for Pompey’s placement on the Blue Jays’ 25-man roster. As you may be able to tell, I’m a bit of a Pompey fan. I’d like to think that it’s entirely objective, but there’s almost certainly an attachment at this point. However, it wasn’t always that way. At one point, far fetched as it may sound, Dalton Pompey was heralded as the centre fielder of the future. In fact, Chris Mitchell at FanGraphs took that designation one step further, asking if Pompey was instead the centre fielder of the present. Dalton Pompey looked like he had an extremely good set of tools, and people were objectively excited about him.
In 2010, the Blue Jays drafted Dalton Pompey in the 16th round of the major league draft, out of John Fraser Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario. He would finish that season in the Gulf Coast League, struggling to have much hitting success in the 11 games he started. By 2012, Pompey had moved up to Low-A in the Midwest League, exhibiting an advanced approach and contact skills. By 2014, he had shown enough promise to merit inclusion in the Futures Game at Target Field. By 2015, Pompey had shot up prospect lists, landing at No. 42 on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 prospects.
He was speedy, he had a great approach, he played a solid centre field, and scouts believed that he could develop some power. That, and the fact that the Blue Jays alternative was a pre-awesome Kevin Pillar, were strong contributors to why Dalton Pompey started for Toronto in centre field on Opening Day 2015.
It was all downhill from there.
In 103 plate appearances he had a .223 BA, a .233 TAv, and two home runs. On May 1st, the Blue Jays optioned him to AAA, in favour of Kevin Pillar as the starting centre fielder, and Ezequiel Carrera as a platoon/bench option. Given that Pillar went on to produce 3.8 WARP in 2015, it ended up being the right decision. Although, as I said at the time (and still believe), Pompey has the higher upside.
On the defensive side of things, the advanced stats were mixed on their opinions of him. In 216 1/3 innings in the outfield, he posted an FRAA of 0.4 and a UZR of -0.2, but a DRS of 6. He’d made some excellent plays in centre field, and is, to this day, a true centre fielder. However, he also admitted to, “playing somewhat scared.” Scared baseball. That was the narrative that followed Dalton to the minors. The public made their own inferences on the quote, suggesting that it may have come about as a result of being the Blue Jays’ “Hometown Hero” before even getting a chance to prove himself.
Since the demotion, the Jays have paid Pompey little attention; mostly because they haven’t needed to. He did get the call-up in September 2015 as the rosters expanded. However, he was relegated to a pinch running role for a majority of the month, before getting a few starts in CF as the Jays were resting their starters for the playoffs.
In 2016, when Jose Bautista first went down to injury, it seemed possible that Pompey would get playing time, but Ezequiel Carrera established himself as an improved player before that could happen. Although, even if Carrera had faltered, it’s never really made sense to call Pompey up to play a corner outfield spot; his value lays in his ability to play an impressive centre field.
With Kevin Pillar still providing enough defensive value (by most metrics), there was never a place for the Mississauga outfielder on the 25-man roster. Then, on August 8th, the Jays’ primary centre fielder over the last calendar year hit the 15-day disabled list with a ligament sprain in his left thumb. Given that Ezequiel Carrera was already on the disabled list, and that Jose Bautista would join him two days after Pillar did, there was finally a spot for Dalton Pompey.
It was not only a chance for Pompey to re-prove himself, but it was an opportunity to provide real value to this big league club. At times his hitting fluctuates, but in the long run, you can always count on his centre field defense. In 2013, he won a minor league Gold Glove Award for his work in the outfield. In 2014, following his call-up, Baseball America noted that he got, “plus ratings on his arm and defense,” and that, potentially plus centre field defense would be his carrying tool.
The Jays currently have four outfielders on their roster: Michael Saunders, Melvin Upton Jr., Junior Lake, and Darrell Cecciliani. Michael Saunders has played centre field, but that was long before his knee injury and subsequent surgery. Melvin Upton has played centre field, but has been anywhere from average to below average at the position. Junior Lake is a converted infielder who had one offensive hot streak in 2011. Darrell Ceccilani is 26, has 81 major league plate appearances, and you almost certainly wouldn’t be able to pick his headshot out of a pile.
Meanwhile Dalton Pompey is toiling away in AAA.
Dalton’s detractors would note that he hasn’t blown the cover off the ball in Buffalo. While that may be true, he also doesn’t have anything in particular to prove at the level either; he doesn’t appear to be learning any more offensively there than he would in Toronto.
There is no true centre fielder on the 25-man roster.
Three of the Blue Jays’ top four outfielders are on the disabled list.
Dalton Pompey is nowhere to be found.
If this isn’t the situation to have him try another shot at the major leagues, then there may never be while he remains in this organization. Pompey’s still just 23, and has the approach, speed, and defence to be an above average major league outfielder. If he doesn’t get that chance in Toronto, I sure hope it happens somewhere else.
Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports