As Billy Beane and David Forst head into the offseason, one of the items at the top of their wishlist almost certainly is going to be a true center fielder. Not a half-measure who will fill a void for a year or two. Not a guy who can only man the position in a fringe capacity. A center fielder with the defensive prowess to cover lots of ground, and hit righties acceptably enough to be a mostly every day player. This is something that I think almost every A's fan can agree on. What we disagree on, however, is the avenue that which the A's braintrust should pursue. It is in this piece that I will make a clear and concise argument for the one true CF: Dalton Kenrick Pompey.
The first thing to note, is that Pompey is not the established elite CF that Pollock, Kiermaier, and Inciarte are. However, this is a buy-low move with potential upside of those aforementioned CF's. It is a gamble that I believe the A's should be willing to take, as I hope you'll soon see.
Pompey is a diamond in the rough found in the Canadian wilderness. Well, to be precise, the Toronto suburbs. Drafted by his hometown Jays in the 16th round of the 2010 draft, he received $150,000 to forgo his college commitment, and Pompey spent the next couple of years playing to little prospect fanfare. He quietly put together a nice half season in the Gulf League in 2011, and seemed poised to utilize his athleticism and have a breakout 2012. He mashed the ball for ten games in Vancouver, and then promptly broke his hand, causing him to miss all but nine of the remaining games of the season.
He spent 2013 in the Midwest League, putting up a very respectable .261/.358/.394 slash over 115 games as a 20 year old, showing his usual excellent defense and speed (38/48 success rate). He still wasn't getting any real prospect love, only meriting a 'Others of Note' blurb on John Sickels' Jays Top 20 for 2014.
If you're a prospect maven, you likely remember Dalton Pompey's meteoric rise through the Jays system in 2014. In case you missed it, the madman slashed .317/.392/.469 also going 43/50 on the basepaths in 113 games across the Jays A+/AA/AAA affiliates. Pompey was then rewarded with a brief 17 game cup of coffee with the Jays. He performed admirably there as well, putting together a .231/.302/.436 line with his standout defense. He instantly became a fan favorite in Toronto, as a hometown kid who made good, putting on a clinic in the outfield.
He did stuff like this.
In short, Dalton Pompey had his coming out party. He looked to be the next exciting young Jays player. Going into the 2015 season, Baseball America had him rated the #30 prospect in the game. They graded his tools as:
For context, that's Jackie Bradley Jr. defense, with a tick above average arm. With plus speed, and average to above hit/power, this is a guy with a very complete game. Everything smelled like roses.
And then 2015 happened...
Pompey had a rough start to the year in the bigs, and lost the CF job to Kevin Pillar, and as they say, the rest is history. Pillar locked down center for the eventual AL East champion Jays, with elite defense and a tad below league average bat. So Pompey hung out in AAA for a while, where he struggled. And then he was sent back down to AA, where he found some consistency, and managed to play himself back to Toronto for their playoff push. He got some time in during the postseason, mostly pinch running.
[Warning: Joe Buck]
2016 hasn't been kind to Pompey. He only recently got back to the bigs with September callups. He had a concussion in June, and hasn't lit AAA on fire in his third year of the level. He's been absolutely buried by Kevin Pillar in the Jays CF, and doesn't have the bat to slide into either corner outfield position. Altogether, he seems like a forgotten Jay rotting away in Buffalo, and his performance signals that he is likely bored and frustrated being stuck there.
As BWH has noted in many threads over the years, the A's tend to target players in their age 24-29 year seasons. The reasoning is clearly that they prefer players who will be hitting their physical prime while in Oakland. After all, they can't afford to pay for players who haven't yet hit their prime, and they have no real interest in paying guys for post-prime performance.
So, all this hullabaloo about a new CF has basically come down to one key point. We have no future CF. There has been a lot of disagreement, but the consistent things the community agrees on are:
- This Centerfielder needs to be an excellent defender.
- This Centerfielder needs to hit from the left side.
- This Centerfielder needs to have team control, and be 24 or older.
- This Centerfielder needs to be acquirable without giving up Franklin Barreto.
Dalton Pompey turns 24 in December. He hasn't burned through a year of service time yet. This is a guy with elite defensive skills, with a solid offensive pedigree. He fits in perfectly with the next contention window, and he is a switch hitter who is better batting from the left side. He also will not require us to part with dear Frankie. Oh look, he meets all the criteria! I am convinced that there is a very good player here, one who just needs to know that he will have every chance to succeed in the bigs. That seems to be the environment that Oakland fosters.
I believe that the package required to acquire Pompey is relatively modest in comparison to some of the other suggestions we have been seeing pop up. My suggestion:
Simple. Easy. You get six years of a potentially great CF for Vogt's arb years. Once R. A. Dickey retires, the Jays won’t need Josh Thole as their backup catcher anymore, so suddenly they’ll need a backup to Russell Martin. They could also use someone who bats better than Justin Smoak at 1B. Enter Stephen Vogt, 1B/C roster hole filler extraordinaire! The Jays are still smack dab in the middle of their contention window. Prospects will do nothing for them. It pretty much has to be a major league piece. If Vogt is not enough, I'm sure if we kicked in Fernando Rodriguez or something that would seal the deal.
This still allows you to use Grant Holmes to buy something else, something like, say, another SP. This opens a lot more possibilities in the offseason instead of just blowing our wad on a guy like Kiermaier or Pollock.
Let me know what you all think!