Three weeks into the season, Blue Jays management continues to provide a questionably constructed roster. We've already seen Russell Martin at third base, Chris Colabello in left field, and Ezequiel Carrera in the lineup against left-handed pitching, and it's still only April! As the season wears on, players are going to need additional days off from playing the field. Simply put, a stronger and more flexible roster is the best way for the Blue Jays to boast a strong lineup day after day.
It's time to call-up Dalton Pompey and Andy Burns to improve this team. Both Chris Colabello and Ezequiel Carrera are off to slow starts, plus their individual skill sets are not ideal for this current roster. Receiving everyday at-bats for the Buffalo Bisons may help them regroup, and they can return to the Blue Jays when a need arises. Although Carrera will need to pass through waivers, the recent signing of Michael Bourn allows Toronto to fill this role in the event of a claim.
Without question, Dalton Pompey is one of the best 25 players in the Blue Jays organization. As a top young player in the system, he offers far more upside than the 28-year old Carrera, and an ability to switch-hit can spell Michael Saunders against lefties. If the Blue Jays want to field the best possible roster when trying to contend, Pompey should be playing in Toronto.
The problem becomes: are there enough at-bats to give Dalton Pompey? The last thing we want is to stunt the development of a promising 23-year old. In short, the answer is yes, as I propose that Pompey can start 75% of games with the following breakdown:
|% of Games||Rationale|
|LF||20||Platoon with Saunders|
|CF||15||Spell Pillar vs. Tough Righties|
|RF||40||Split Time With Smoak vs. RHP|
In addition, Pompey could play in the remaining 25% of games as a pinch-runner, pinch-hitter, or late-game defensive replacement. He will receive much more playing time than the typical 4th outfielder, and the Blue Jays will greatly benefit from his terrific speed and outstanding defence.
Although Michael Saunders is off to a strong start, his career numbers showcase his struggles against left-handed pitching. Given his injury history, he likely needs to receive a substantial number of days off, and it clearly makes sense to do this against left-handed pitchers. Since Ezequiel Carrera struggles against left-handers as well, the Blue Jays currently lack a decent platoon option. Let Saunders rake against right-handed pitching, and strategically spell him when a southpaw takes the mound. Conservatively, this alone gives Pompey 20% of the starts in left field.
In addition, Pompey can spell Kevin Pillar in approximately 15% of games, specifically against tough right-handed pitchers. Pillar makes incredible diving catches, aggressive slides, and can often be found crashing into an outfield wall. We can't possibly expect him to play 159 games again this season, and spelling him against tough-righties helps to keep him fresh. Pompey is a plus defender in his own right, and Pillar showed rather large splits over his minor league career. If the opposing starter excels against righties, let's make the lineup more dangerous and swap-in a switch hitter with improved on-base ability.
Finally, Pompey can take Colabello's place and split time with Justin Smoak against right-handed pitching. Jose Bautista can DH on these days, which helps to keep him healthy and well-rested throughout the season. At the age of 35, Bautista graded out as a below average defender last season, while Pompey looks poised to be an elite defender in a corner outfield position. With an amazing outfield defence, it will become extremely difficult to start a rally against Blue Jays pitching.
Following a Pompey call-up, there will be minimal use for an additional outfielder in Ezequiel Carrera. In addition, having three first basemen provides minimal flexibility. As a result, the Jays should look to the defensive versatility of Andy Burns, who can play all over the field: 2B, SS, 3B, and LF. This helps keep Russell Martin out of the infield, and helps spell the Blue Jays infielders.
Burns is much better against left-handed pitching and could platoon at DH, as Pompey will already be playing in place of Saunders. Rather than actually using him at DH, the Jays can rest one of their infielders on these days. In particular, Troy Tulowitzki can receive a day off from the field, which provides John Gibbons with a ton of flexibility.
Although Burns would not receive everyday at bats, he is 25 and may only end up as a bench player anyways. With the Blue Jays actively trying to contend, it makes sense to field the best and most flexible lineup possible. It's time for the Blue Jays to call up both Dalton Pompey and Andy Burns, and create the optimal roster.