Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Dalton Pompey, CF, Toronto Blue Jays (Profile)
Level: A+/AA Age: 21 Top-15: 13th Top-100: N/A
Line: .312/.393/.461, 6 HR, 29 SB, 36-58 BB-K
Pompey is one of the fastest-rising prospects not only in the Jays system but minor-league baseball, in general. He’s also likely to be a hot commodity during trade talks at the July deadline approaches.
Despite their best efforts to hand the American League East lead to Baltimore or New York, the Toronto Blue Jays continue to sit atop the division. But anyone who’s watched the club throughout the first three months knows that the 25-man roster has holes. As a result, Toronto is mentioned in most of the rumors floating around the Twitter-verse as the July trade deadline looms ever closer.
The Blue Jays gutted the farm system — mostly the upper tiers — a few years ago while acquiring the likes of Jose Reyes from the Marlins and R.A. Dickey from the Mets but a few new intriguing names are beginning to bubble to surface and may interest opposing teams. Many of the names being bandied about are pitchers — such as Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris — but the organization also features an athletic outfielder (born in Canada no less) who was recently promoted to Double-A and has been zooming up prospect rankings.
Dalton Pompey, 21, hit .319/.397/.471 in 70 High-A games before his promotion. The switch-hitter also nabbed 29 bases in 31 attempts (94% success rate) — which isn’t far off his rate prior to the 2014 season: 70 for 83 (84%). As the numbers suggest, he possesses above-average speed and is a plus base runner with outstanding instincts. He also plays a strong center field and it’s not a stretch to project him developing into a plus big league outfielder.
A patient hitter, Pompey has become a much improved force at the plate. After walking 63 times in 115 games last season (12% BB-rate), he’s took 35 free passes in High-A ball (11%). He still strikes out a lot (56 times in 276 at-bats) but he’s tapping into his power on a more consistent bases and is seeing balls leave the yard at a higher rate — which helps make the 18% K-rate more palatable.
Pompey was originally selected out of a Toronto-area high school in 2010 in the 16th round — and at the age of 17. He originally caught my eye in his second pro season and I wrote this in January of 2012 after seeing him play:
SLEEPER ALERT: Dalton Pompey, OF: A raw, switch-hitting Canadian outfielder, Pompey has showed flashes of becoming a solid prospect. Signed at the age of 17 in 2010, he is still maturing both on and off the field. Pompey is learning to drive the ball more consistent and should develop at least average power. He went 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts in Rookie ball before moving up to the advanced Rookie league where he nabbed another four bags in five tries.
Like many of the prep-drafted prospects in the ultra-conservative Jays system, he then spent parts of three seasons in Rookie ball (and missed a good chunk of the ’12 season due to injury). He finally hinted at the breakout I was expecting in 2013 when he played a full year in A-ball and slashed .261/.358/.394 with 38 steals in 115 games.
After the ’13 season, I ranked Pompey as the 13th-best prospect in the Jays system and stated:
He doesn’t turn 21 until December and already has four seasons of pro ball under his belt. Pompey projects to develop into an outstanding defensive outfielder, he has the speed to steal 20-30 bases and he shows flashes of developing into an average or better hitter with gap power. He’ll move up to High-A ball in 2014 and could see Double-A before the year is out.
By comparison, Baseball America also saw something in Pompey and ranked him 17th overall on their Jays Top 30 Prospects list during last offseason. MLB.com’s Jays Top 20 Prospects list slotted him in 18th. Keith Law at ESPN.com and Baseball Prospectus only went 10 deep with their prospect lists and neither placed the young outfielder among the Top 10.
Pompey is no doubt an attractive trade target for teams such as the Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel, Jeff Samardzija), Cleveland Indians (Justin Masterson), Arizona Diamondbacks (Brandon McCarthy) or Tampa Bay (David Price) but the potential Canadian-born star could anchor the Jays outfield for years to come — and the club will likely have an opening in centre field when the incumbent, Colby Rasmus, becomes a free agent at year’s end.
The Jays have an interesting dilemma to ponder: How is Pompey more valuable? As a potential everyday centerfield and table-setting switch-hitter for the Jays, starting in mid 2015 or early 2016? Or as one of the centerpieces in a deal for a Price or Samardzija?
Homegrown hitters have become a rarity for the Toronto Blue Jays franchise. The organization features just three homegrown talents on the 25-man roster in Adam Lind, Brad Glenn and Darin Mastroianni. There are five more hitters present on the 40-man roster — A.J. Jimenez, Ryan Goins, Kevin Pillar, Erik Kratz and Kenny Wilson. However, three of the players — Mastroianni, Kratz and Wilson — were actually lost to other organizations in various transactions and later re-acquired. In total, homegrown hitters make up 38% of the team’s 40-man roster (which actually mirrors the average for American League 40-man rosters).
The draft appears to have been a sore spot when it came to adding offensive talent. The club had poor luck in acquiring and developing highly-regarded amateurs taken in the draft between 2006 and 2010 (Players selected in the first five rounds or given $200,000+ bonus considered). Let’s look at the college picks first:
Luke Hopkins, 1B — He played part of just one season before walking away from the game.
J.P. Arencibia, C — The slugging catcher’s struggles have been well documented and he’s now playing at Triple-A for the Texas Rangers.
David Cooper, 1B — Cooper made it to the Majors as a replacement-level first baseman before a back injury ruined his career.
Mark Sobolewski, 3B — He played only 35 games above Double-A and never reached the Majors
Ryan Goins, IF: Goins opened the year as the Jays’ starting second baseman but quickly lost the job when it became clear his bat was not up to snuff.
Now, let’s look at the Jays’ track record with prep hitters:
Travis Snider, OF: Considered one of the best bats in the draft, and one of the most advanced prep hitters, Snider never fully realized his potential in Toronto despite numerous opportunities and he’s had even less success in Pittsburgh.
Kevin Ahrens, 3B: Toronto had seven picks in the first two rounds in 2007 but this 16th overall pick appeared in just 73 games above A-ball in seven years for Toronto. He’s now hitting .276 in High-A ball for Atlanta.
Justin Jackson, SS/P: Jackson was a dazzling but inconsistent defender who never learned to hit. The club holds out hope for this pick, though, and put his strong arm on the mound in 2013.
John Tolisano, 2B/OF: Considered a solid amateur hitter, Tolisano spent three years in Double-A with Toronto and is now struggling to hit .200 in HIgh-A ball for the Reds.
Eric Eiland, OF: Eiland, who was also a star prep football player, lasted just four years in the Jays system before making his way to the University of Houston where he played college football.
Kenny Wilson, OF: WIlson has struggled to turn his raw talent into useable baseball skills and he’s spent 2014 bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A.
Tyler Pastornicky, IF: Injuries and a lack of roster spots have prevented Pastornicky from establishing himself as a big leaguer but he’s still just 24 years old.
Jake Marisnick, OF: Marisnick is still considered a piece of the Marlins’ future but the defensive whiz has yet to prove that he can hit.
K.C. Hobson, 1B: The son of Butch Hobson recently received a promotion to Double-A ball despite struggling to produce league-average offense in A-ball over parts of five seasons. He’s hitting just .080 over his first seven games at his new level.
Chris Hawkins, OF: Hawkins was released prior to the 2014 season and never appeared above A-ball.
Brandon Mims, IF: Mims quit the sport after just one season (in which he received two at-bats).
Shane Optiz, IF: Injuries have kept Opitz from receiving regular playing time.
Dickie Joe Thon, IF/OF: Thon dealt with some health woes early in his career but he’s having a bit of a breakout season in 2014 at Low-A ball.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.