Blue Jays outfield prospect Dalton Pompey began this year as a toolsy former 16th round pick who had never played a game above the low-A Midwest League, now he is headed to the minors’ highest level.
Toronto has promoted the 21 year old, ranked by MLB.com as the team’s 3rd best prospect, to Triple-A Buffalo, where he will join the Bisons for their Thursday night matchup against Scranton.
After a few middling years in rookie ball and most recently Class-A Lansing, Pompey has had a breakout season in 2014. He began the year with Advanced-A Dunedin and hit .319/.397./.471 with 6 home runs and 29 stolen bases in 317 plate appearances. That earned him a promotion to New Hampshire, Toronto’s Double-A affiliate, and he has held his own for the last 127 plate appearances, slugging .473 with three home runs and a .378 on base percentage.
Pompey’s statistical success may be new, but it is not surprising for members of the Blue Jays organization and those that have followed his professional career.
Toronto didn’t take the Ontario native until the 16th round in 2010, but they still saw potential in him and dolled out an above-slot signing bonus of $150,000. Scouts around baseball began to really catch on after his 2013 season, when he won a minor league gold glove award for his defense in center, and held his own with a .752 OPS in Lansing.
After that campaign, MLB.com ranked Pompey as the Jays’ 15th best prospect, and Fangraphs.com listed him at 13th. His 2014 performance has bumped him up into top 100 prospect consideration, as he ranks 91st on MLB.com’s midseason list.
The question now is whether he could earn a third promotion this season, a big league one, come September 1st.
The Blue Jays, currently nine games back in the AL East, 4.5 out of the second wild card spot, are set in the outfield with Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Colby Rasmus. Their acting fourth outfielder, though is Nolan Reimold. He can offer some power, but is a defensive liability in the corners, cannot play center and has just a .309 on base percentage in 55 plate appearance this year.
Pompey is everything Reimold isn’t: a plus runner who can cover wide swaths of land in center and a patient, top of the order hitter at the plate. It remains to be seen whether he can hold his own in the majors right now, though his advanced approach at the plate – 11% walk rate, 17% strikeout rate – should give him an edge on his peers.
If Pompey can, he could serve as a backup outfielder with Reimold while spelling the struggling Rasmus (.288 OBP) in center. Even if his bat isn’t quite ready, his speed and athleticism will offer value in a late inning pinch-runner or defensive replacement role.
The decision on whether to call Pompey up will probably ultimately come down to a strict assessment of his polish and skill-set. He is not on the 40 man roster, but he will have to be added by this November anyway, or be left exposed in the Rule V draft. Service time would generally be a factor, but Toronto has already shown a willingness to ignore it for the sake of wins, putting top prospect Aaron Sanchez in their bullpen in July, and Daniel Norris About to Make His Major league Debut?” href=”http://gradingonthecurve.com/2014/08/15/daniel-norris-make-major-league-debut/”>announcing that 21 year old left-hander Daniel Norris will join the MLB club on September 1st.
Much could come down to how he plays in Triple-A. He’ll start trying to showcase his worth tonight in Buffalo, 7:05 EST, Coca-Cola Field.