The Blue Jays find themselves in an interesting predicament when it comes to who to go with in left-field to start the 2017 season. Toronto unfortunately doesn’t have one stand-out player who is leaps and bounds most deserving to start in left, but what Toronto does have is a whole slew of equally worthy candidates for the job.
Speaking with the media last week, Ross Atkins said he hopes Steve Pearce can be the Blue Jays regular left-fielder, thus leaving the door open for Justin Smoak at 1st base. I’m not so sure I feel the same way as Atkins does about this. Pearce is coming off elbow surgery this past September, but even if he’s completely healthy at the beginning of the season, I’m not convinced left field is the first place I’d choose to play him. With so many capable candidates who can play left field already in the organization (i.e. Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton Jr., Dalton Pompey), I think Toronto would be best served playing Pearce at 1st base, and then have these other outfielders battle it out for the starting gig in left-field. This team is already lacking in top-end speed on the bases, with only Kevin Pillar as a serious threat to steal. Playing one of Carrera, Upton, or Pompey in left field would certainly add some well needed speed to the line-up.
If the season were to begin today, chances are the Blue Jays would likely split the playing time in left field between Carrera and Upton. But just like the two remaining spots in the Blue Jays bullpen will be a hotly contested battle between a good number of worthy players, the same goes for the competition to see who will earn the starting spot in left field. Which is why in addition to Carrera and Upton, the other players to really keep an eye on include Pompey, and as a dark horse, Harold Ramirez.
We’ve seen how hard Carrera works as a player…making things happen on the bases with his solid speed and playing respectable defense in the outfield. Carrera’s work ethic and hustle is what always separated him from the other players with ambitions of starting in left field. Which is why if a young up and comer like Pompey or Ramirez wishes to supplant Carrera as the number one candidate in left field, they’ll have to work every bit as hard as he does in an effort to wrestle this job away from him. As for Upton, he’s such a lethargic player, that I can’t see him beating out players like Carrera or Pompey who are going to be busting their tail and stopping at nothing to earn this starting job. Who knows, perhaps Upton will surprise us and bring a renewed energy, but I really don’t think it makes a huge difference to him whether he starts in left field or is the Blue Jays 4th outfielder.
Unless Ramirez hits the cover off the ball all spring and proves to be every bit as capable on defense as both Carrera and Pompey, chances are he spends at least one more season in the minors refining his game. Which is why the real competition for the starting position in left field this spring will be between Carrera and Pompey.