Successfully breaking up hockey talk, if only for a short while, I joined Matt Baker on the Team 1040 last Thursday to talk Blue Jays and their minor league system.
The night we did the spot was after the Jays bullpen melted down in the back half of a double header with the Twins, giving up six runs in the eighth inning on all sorts of walks, wild pitches, and other tomfoolery. This provided a nice segue into a chat about Steve Delabar and where I was when I found out about the trade (hint: it was in a bar).
For the amount I tend to moan about some of Alex Anthoploulos’ trades (see Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey) you have to remember, there has been quite a few that have worked our rather well. And Steve Delabar for Eric Thames is one of those.
The Dalton Pompey chat was a bit rushed and the Mississauga native does merit a bit more discussion. C’s fans may remember Pompey’s 11 game stint at the Nat in 2012. He looked set to break out and become a prospect to be reckoned with, but a broken hamate bone cut short his season. Despite the lack of reps, he was sent to Lansing in 2013 where he put up decent numbers, including 38 stolen bases, 0.59 BB/K ratio, and a .133 ISO. He also won the Rawlings Minor League gold glove for center field. All this despite battling through a broken toe for the bulk of the summer.
Progressing linearly, Pompey was assigned to Dunedin this season and has gotten off to a fantastic start, slashing .349/.414/.413 through his first 71 plate appearances. A .468 BABIP means the batting average is unsustainable. When that happens, it will be important for Pompey to up his current 9.9% walk rate to the 12/13 per cent range as when he is on base he is avery valuable player as his speed can cause havoc. He currently sits second in the FSL with nine stolen bases at a 100% success rate.
One stat that was thrown my way over the weekend (and thanks to @RJBrasilcdn for the tip) was Baseball Prospectus Florida based writer Chris King arguing that Pompey, a switch-hitter, should look to maybe focus on only hitting from the left side (check out 37:28 mark of Episode 57) calling his swing from the right side ‘a mess’.
@CharlieCaskey Pompey 1 for 14 batting RH, with 7 strikeouts. 18 for 44 batting LH with only 7 strikeouts.
— Rick (@RJBrasilcdn) April 20, 2014
As per the above tweet, (and Pompey is now 2 for 15 from that side) the sample size so far this season is tiny. If you go back through his four previous pro seasons, it’s tough get a clear read on the stats. As I mentioned above, 2012 was cut short due to injury, so Pompey only had 11 plate appearances from the right side. Prior to that, in 2011 and ’10 there were only 30 odd PAs. So, again, not a great sample size. That being said, for all those years, the splits are very similar. He didn’t hit for much average or power, and struck out a ton from the right side, so his pitch recognition was not there.
What may be holding the organization back from having him switch to full time lefty was his season last year in Lansing. The one time we actually got a decent chunk of at bats to analyze. And, all in all, it wasn’t too bad. He put up a .273/.348/.446 slash from the right side, including four of his six home runs, versus .256/.362/.373 from the left. The strike out numbers weren’t that far different either at 21.33% from left side with 19.12% from the right. Those types of numbers make it entirely reasonable to carry on hitting from both sides of the plate. Being a switch hitter give his manager (and Pompey himself) just that extra bit of flexibility.
The Jays (especially in the upper levels) don’t really have a ton of position prospects to get excited about. One area they are quite deep at though is center field. Unfortunately, the skill-set of the four full season affiliate center fielders could be described as samey. They are speed guys, who have flashed above average defense, while showing a worrying inability to make consistent contact.
Pompey has always struck out at around 20%, slightly better than the other three. If he can improve on that, while continuing to up his power numbers, he could could be the one that eventually separates himself from the crowd:
(stats courtesy of fangraphs.com as of games ending 21/04/14)
With Colby Rasmus up for free agency at the end of this season, and the Jays either unwilling or not allowed to test the open market for replacements, they are going to need some outfielders to stand out. Pompey is still a couple of years away, but if he continues to hit this season, his name will come up in conversations far more than it used to.