It is incredibly frustrating to re-read the tragic history of Dalton Pompey’s still larval professional baseball career. At one point, he was a highly touted prospect with a bright future and a reserved spot on a major league roster. To this day, he’s appeared in just 64 Major League Baseball games, and with his new demotion, he might not see anymore.
In the beginning, Pompey was a normal Canadian kid, growing up in Mississauga, Ontario and attending John Fraser Secondary School. The Blue Jays drafted him in the 16th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft, a draft class that was headlined by first overall pick Bryce Harper. Other notable names taken after Pompey in that draft were Adam Eaton, Evan Gattis, Alex Claudio and an above average center fielder by the name of Kevin Kiermaier.
In the early 2010s, everything was looking up for Pompey, he was awarded a minor league Gold Glove award in 2013 with the Lansing Lugnuts, and he skyrocketed to the top of Toronto’s prospect list, reaching the third spot in 2014.
Armed with ridiculous speed on the basepaths and a bat that was sure to make consistent contact at the major league level, he never quite put it all together. He appeared briefly in the majors in 2014 as a September call-up but contributed the most to the big club in 2015 when he slashed a pedestrian .223/.291/.372 with five stolen bases and two home runs in 103 plate appearances.
After appearing in clusters of games here and there with the Jays, Pompey, 23 at the time, was excited to take a run at representing the true north strong and free at the World Baseball Classic, donning the maple leaf for the 2017 tournament. During the tourney, Pompey suffered a severe concussion while sliding into second base, ending his season indefinitely.
He’s since appeared in five major league games for the Jays and has spent the remainder of his 2018 season at Triple-A Buffalo, slashing .255/.317/.471 with three home runs and 15 strikeouts in 62 plate appearances. All signs point to him staying in Buffalo unless significant injuries or struggles force the team’s hand and they are required to bring him up.
The front office is now aware that Pompey, who is naturally talented, is perpetually unable to stay healthy. As the chronology of Major League Baseball progresses faster than ever, front offices are losing patience in young players earlier and earlier in their careers, often making mountains out of molehills when it comes to injury-plagued seasons.
What’s even more disheartening about the career of Dalton Pompey is that it’s unlikely to get any better. The Blue Jays, in all of their inconsistent play, have a slew of competent outfielders on their roster and in the upper minors. Dwight Smith Jr., Anthony Alford, and Teoscar Hernandez have all played with Pompey in Buffalo, and all three of them have logged more major league innings that Pompey this season.
That’s not all. Those three, along with Randal Grichuk, Steve Pearce, Kevin Pillar, and Curtis Granderson have all contributed games in the outfield, with Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz also appearing in the outfield during various points of their careers. All in all, that’s seven men who’ve routinely played Pompey’s position, with two more who have a secure place on the roster that could fill in.
The conclusions that can be formed when assessing Dalton Pompey’s situation are grim at best. When you combine a career 82 wRC+ with a severely crowded outfield and top it off with a quickly decreasing amount of confidence from the front office, you’re left with, well, not much at all.
Of all the disappointing aspects of Pompey’s career, none are more saddening than the simple fact that he had a ton of folks rooting for him. Being from Mississauga, Pompey became just the sixth Ontarian to play for the Blue Jays. He’s a local kid who provided hope in a time when hope seemed impossible to find. For many Jays fans, Dalton Pompey was the Jimmy Rollins at the top of the lineup who could steal bases and become a human highlight reel with unlimited diving catches on the Rogers Centre carpet.
What we’re left with now is a 25-year-old outfielder who has no place to play. Do the Jays trade him? Unlikely. Do they release him outright? It’s not worth it. Do they bring him up and let him play out the season, which is looking more and more depressing by the game? Probably not.
If, for some absurd reason, Dalton Pompey himself is reading this, please know this. We were all that one local kid who believed we could play for our favorite Major League Baseball squad. We were all the kid who dreamt of stealing third in a pivotal playoff series. You sir have already done that, and have accomplished the latter with the appropriate energizing gusto, and we are proud. We are still cheering for you.
I cannot and will not pretend to be an expert on what will become of Dalton Pompey. Perhaps he will do well enough in the upper minors to warrant a September call-up. Maybe from there he’ll steal a few bags and impress John Gibbons plenty to earn a start or two. Whatever becomes of Dalton Pompey, it is an interesting story I for one will surely follow as it develops.
In all honesty, the most exciting part of Dalton Pompey as a player is not what he is; it’s who he is. A Canadian baseball player, say that out loud. A Canadian baseball player who once played for the Jays, no less. That my friends is something that we can all appreciate.
Image Credits: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press, Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press, Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press, Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America, Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports