The Toronto Blue Jays outfield situation is going to look a heck of a lot better in 2019 compared to what it is right now. That’s not to say the current outfield is bad. But there are going to be some outfield spots opening up for 2019, and maybe even a trade or two this offseason.
The Blue Jays currently have the following outfielders on their 40-man roster:
- Anthony Alford
- Curtis Granderson
- Randal Grichuk
- Teoscar Hernandez
- Steve Pearce
- Kevin Pillar
- Dalton Pompey
- Dwight Smith Jr.
We’ve seen all eight of these outfielders for at least some duration during the 2018 season. Beyond this year, you can all but guarantee Granderson and Pearce are gone: The platoon got off to a great start, but it all kind of fell apart when Pearce injured his oblique. Dalton Pompey may remain in the organization for depth purposes, but his future with the Blue Jays is very much in doubt, especially following his most recent stint with the big club and eventual injury. Unfortunately for the Mississauga native, it’s unlikely he’ll factor into the Blue Jays’ plans for much longer.
That leaves Alford, Grichuk, Hernandez, Pillar, and Smith Jr. as the Jays’ outfielders heading into the offseason, barring any trades this deadline. If anyone is moved this deadline or offseason, it would likely be Pillar. Grichuk’s recent string of post-disabled list success has made Blue Jays fans realize that he is actually a good and useful outfielder. In an ideal world, Hernandez will get at-bats at designated hitter a few times a week given his poor defense, with some time spent in the outfield. Anthony Alford is the most blue-chip and exciting out of all the names listed above, and he will certainly get his shot. Given that Pillar will be arbitration eligible and will likely command a raise, one would hope the Blue Jays consider trading him this 0ff-season to open up a full-time spot for Alford.
But while there are many scenarios that may play out with the Jays’ outfield situation over the remainder of 2018 and through the offseason, one thing is certain in my mind: Dwight Smith Jr. has shown enough in his very brief MLB career to have a spot on the 2019 Blue Jays roster, even if it’s in the role of the fourth outfielder.
Smith Jr. is a left-handed bat, something only Granderson and switch-hitter Pompey offer in the current crop of outfielders. He’s hit at every level the Blue Jays have placed him at, and since 2013 has never posted a wRC+ of less than 108. In 164 plate appearances with the Buffalo Bisons, Smith Jr. has a walk rate of 14.6 percent and a strikeout rate of only 15.2 percent. He has almost walked as much as he’s struck out in 2018, and that good eye has translated decently well to the major leagues with 8.8 percent walk rate in 34 MLB plate appearances.
There isn’t a whole lot of major league data to go off of for Smith Jr., as he’s only amassed 63 plate appearances, but the small sample size returns are great, with a line of .333/.397/.533. In 42 batted balls for his MLB career, Smith Jr. has a hard hit percentage of 25.6 percent. With Smith Jr.’s ability to see pitches quite well, not strike out a lot, and put the ball in play, he should at minimum make a good fourth outfielder in 2019.
Smith Jr. offers the Blue Jays versatility, too, as he could play all over the outfield, hits left-handed, and can run very well. None of the other outfield options heading into 2019 would be able to offer that combination. The one thing to be worried about in the small sample size is the completely unsustainable .429 BABIP. Still, given Smith Jr.’s performance in his brief time in the majors, and all the minor league data we have available to us, he should definitely figure into the Jays’ outfield plans for 2019. Whether as a fourth outfielder or in a regular role, Dwight Smith Jr. can be a useful player for the Blue Jays moving forward into next season and beyond.
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