Dalton Pompey was on a rehab assignment and in at DH for Dunedin on Thursday night. He went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks for the D-Jays, in what was his third rehab game in his return from a concussion suffered at the World Baseball Classic. His performance, however, wasn’t what jumped out about this one. It was a pre-game comment he made on the Dunedin broadcast:
"There was times where I didn't know if I was ever going to play again."
– Dalton Pompey on Dunedin #BlueJays broadcast (re: concussion)
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) June 1, 2017
Like… holy shit!
Full disclosure: I didn’t actually hear the clip myself, so maybe there’s some key tone or context I’m missing, but… uh… that seems pretty clear! Concussions are scary business.
Pompey is obviously healthy now, and hearing this, that’s truly outstanding news. And while his good health has to be the main takeaway from this, one kinda can’t help but note here that the timing of his injury really couldn’t have been worse for his advancement as a member of the Jays’ organization. Clearly there’s never a great time to be injured, but the Jays’ left field situation has been a mess all season, and Pompey would have had had an opportunity to seize a spot out there.
Ezequiel Carrera has been fine enough. In fact, on Thursday he raised his wRC+ (101) to a tick above league average, though it’s probably worth remembering that less than a week ago — before he notched eight hits in five games, including Thursday’s home run — he was sitting at 89, and over those five games his on-base has risen from .324 to .340. So… like I say, fine enough. But he’s replaceable. Plus, Steve Pearce is hurt (and John Gibbons told reporters not to expect him for at least another couple of weeks yet), Chris Coghlan is hardly a left fielder, nor is Darwin Barney (who has spent some time out there). Darrell Ceciliani has seen time out there, and so too, of course, have Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Alford.
Those are the big ones — Alford, in particular. Pompey will still quite possibly get some kind of a chance this season to steal Carrera’s job away, and next spring could make for an interesting battle between the two, but Alford’s call-up underlined in a big way how he’s closed the gap on Pompey.
At the start of 2015, Alford was in Lansing, embarking on his first full season devoted to baseball, meanwhile Pompey was the Jays’ Opening Day centre fielder, having looked the part in 17 games as a September call-up in 2014. Now? Alford’s on the 40-man. He’s been crushing it in New Hampshire. He is, of course, injured at the moment as well, but he’s nipping at Pompey’s heels, as far as the organizational depth chart goes. Plus the Jays still have Pearce for another year, they have Smith hitting well in Buffalo, they have Harold Ramirez, and if they keep playing well enough to justify doing so, they may end up trading for left field help in July.
It has to have been an immensely frustrating couple of seasons for Pompey. He’s got his health, but the smashing success of his 2014 season in New Hampshire and Buffalo feels like a lifetime ago. In Buffalo that season he slashed .358/.393/.453; last season, another injury-marred campaign, he posted marks that were 90, 50, and 100 points lower (.270/.349/.353).
He’s not not a prospect any longer (except, y’know, how he’s literally not a prospect because he’s spent so much time in the big leagues already), and the best of Dalton Pompey in the big leagues is likely still yet to come, but the shine is certainly off. There still could be an exciting future for a Blue Jays outfield with Pompey in it, and it’s great that he’s back in games and looking good so far on his rehab assignment in Dunedin (he’s 4-for-10 with four walks in three games), but it’s really unfortunate for him that so many chances to make a job his own have already passed by.
The Jays could use that Pompey we dreamed on not so long ago, even if he’s somewhat miscast in left field. They could have used him. Now they can only hope that the next time the opportunity arises, he’s healthy and finally ready to make good on all that promise. And he can only hope that, by then, he’s still next in line for the job.
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