With several weeks to go until Spring Training, the Blue Jays have a number of positions on the roster pretty much accounted for; catcher, shortstop, third base, right field and left field.
But one position that could be hotly contested for this spring is centre field.
Rather than going the trade or the free agent route, centre field appears to be a position which the Blue Jays will fill internally in 2015. The debate is whether the position will be occupied by rookie Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar, or perhaps even a combination of both.
Earlier this offseason, John Gibbons kind of unofficially anointed Dalton Pompey as the club’s next starting centre fielder; and while it may be Pompey’s job to lose, Pillar could still certainly snag the position himself.
Indeed it would be great to see an exciting young 21 year old like Dalton Pompey win the centre field job outright, part of me thinks that Kevin Pillar will ultimately command that post this season.
Both of these guys are still relatively unproven at the big league level, which means there’s some concern they might quite be ready to step in as an everyday centre fielder. But what if Pompey and Pillar split the duties?
Looking at their Major League and Minor League splits, a platoon of Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey in centre field might not actually be a bad idea for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015.
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Pompey punished right-handers last season with a slash line of .320/.370/.640 (albeit in only 43 plate appearances).
Also, Dalton spent the bulk of his 2014 season with the Lansing Lugnuts, where he hit lefties and righties equally well, but posted an incredible slash line of .315/.425/.562 versus righties.
Cumulatively in the minor leagues, Dalton Pompey owns a .285/.380/.422 slash line in 1000 plate appearances versus right-handers. From the other side of the plate, Kevin Pillar owns impressive minor league numbers against lefties, to the tune of .364/.399/.545.
Conversely, Kevin Pillar has a career .275/.314/.425 MLB slash line against left-handers, with 232 big league plate appearances under his belt.
Now it may have been his inexperience at the big league level, but Pompey simply looked overmatched versus lefties while Pillar has certainly held his own during his stints with the Blue Jays.
By comparison, Kevin Pillar may project as the better of the two, but his on base percentage is still a concern. Eight walks in 232 plate appearances with the Blue Jays indicates Pillar really needs to work on his pitch recognition.
John Gibbons employed several different platoons last season which were met with varying results, but centre field is really the only conceivable position where the Blue Jays could craft a two-headed position player in 2015 … if they choose to do so.
Platoons are one of those things that sometimes seem better in theory than practice, but this might be one instance where it actually could work out well for the Blue Jays.
Both Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar both appear to be great defenders and have no trouble laying out to make a spectacular catch; as was evidenced numerous times last season by both outfielders.
So no matter which of the two is penciled into the starting lineup that given day, the Blue Jays would still be getting a plus defender in centre field.
Also, the fact that Pompey and Pillar make the league minimum salary this coming season (just over $1 million dollars combined) is merely a bonus. But a cheap, controllable option at a premium position like centre field is not to be undervalued.
In essence, both of these guys project to be bottom of the order bats anyway, and it’s not like the Blue Jays will be heavily reliant on offensive production from the centre field position.
It bears repeating, but in 2014 the Blue Jays centre fielders hit a combined .213/.275/.361, which was the second worst in all of baseball. Virtually any other combination of players in centre field would be an improvement.
So even if Pompey & Pillar can simply contribute league-average offense or even slightly below, a platoon in centre field still seems like a very viable option for the Blue Jays in 2015.
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