A lot of talk this offseason has focused around the team's holes at second base and the bullpen, which has allowed a rather questionable center base situation to fly under the radar. While fans worry about the possibility of 11-year major league veteran Maicer Izturis starting the season at second, the fact that 22-year-old Dalton Pompey has been given the job in center field doesn't seem to attract much hesitation. While Pompey may eventually become "the Great" (the numerous puns in this post are intended), he currently has 43 major league plate appearances on a team that is staring down a narrow two year window to compete. Beyond that, the other feasible option for the starting job was traded away earlier in the season leaving the position even more thin.
While his Roman namesake may have secured military successes at a similar age to Dalton, the odds that the Canadian is anything but a weak spot in the batting lineup seem relatively small. While the 2014 season was an absolute dream for the switch hitter, he has yet to have 100 PA above Double-A making him one of the most unexperienced players on a team that should be contending for the playoffs. When he was originally called up in September, the team was so cautious with him that he didn't receive his first start until the 19th. That doesn't exactly reek of a front office confident of a player that will be the starting center fielder a few months later. The fact that the team has done little to at least provide some depth at the position could come back to bite them, considering even an injury would turn the outfield situation into a disaster.
What the young player does have in his favour is an abundance of speed and defensive skills, which tend to hold up at any level of professional baseball. Pompey's floor is relatively Gose-esque, which could make you optimistic or terrified depending on how much you like a center fielder who can be counted on to hit his weight. Granted, Pompey is considered by most to be a better hitter than Gose, but the fact that he hasn't proven it at the major league level still leaves much to be desired. Some people will be happy with a player in center who holds his own defensively and sits at the bottom of the lineup with the speed to make something happen in the times he does end up on base.
Even Pompey himself admits he's not entirely confident of his right-handed hitting ability when speaking to Brendan Kennedy of The Star:
A switch-hitter, Pompey has been working harder on his right-handed swing, something he realized was necessary after running into the world’s best southpaws in the majors, including Andrew Miller, who struck him out on four pitches.
"Once I got to the big leagues I realized how good the left-handed pitching was."
With so small of a relevant sample for the Mississauga native, it's tough to draw many conclusions about how the future will play out. As I sit here re-watching a game from last season, Pompey looks like a young player with a solid enough approach but still clearly overmatched by major league pitching. That's exactly the type of prospect you would make your starting center fielder in a season where you expect to play .500 ball, but not in a season where anything short of the playoffs will result in extreme disappointment. It actually may be easier to imagine a Toronto Blue Jays playoff team with Maicer Iztruis at second base than it would be with Dalton Pompey in center.
While the situation hardly calls for a blockbuster trade to acquire a star center fielder, it certainly is a scenario where Alex Anthopoulos should make it a priority to add some sort of depth to the position. If either poor play or injuries forces Pompey out of the starting job, then the team will have no one to blame except themselves for fast-tracking their best position player prospect in years through the minor leagues without any sort of Plan B. Maybe that trade for a second baseman and reliever should include a center fielder throw-in as well.