Not since back in 2015 when Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis earned starting positions have the Blue Jays had any position players come up from the minors to start on a regular basis. 2018 should hopefully see an infusion of youth, and with that, some much needed speed, energy, and enthusiasm for the game that Toronto was sorely lacking last season.
Barring any trades or free agent signings, left field more so than any other position is up for grabs on the Blue Jays. With no surefire starter, combined with plenty of talented prospects perfectly suited for this position, Toronto will have to choose amongst a pool of 4-5 players when it comes to left field next March. Veterans like Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera represent the old guard trying to keep their jobs, whereas Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, and Dwight Smith Jr. represent the youth movement trying to establish themselves in the big leagues. I haven’t included Teoscar Hernandez on this list of possible left field candidates as I believe he’ll be starting in right.
It’s not often I make comparisons between baseball and football, but yesterday I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Miami Hurricanes (The U Reloaded). Those Miami teams from the early 2000’s (especially the National Champion team from 2001) were so incredibly talented, but they also worked their tails off to get the very most out of that phenomenal talent. Not only did they push themselves hard during the off-season, but when the season finally did roll around, those players treated practice as if it were the Super Bowl. They practiced with so much intensity that when it was time to play the game on Saturday, it was a walk in the park compared to what they put themselves through all week in practice.
The Blue Jays need to take a page from the 2001 Hurricanes and start bringing some intensity and inner competition to this ball club. I’m tired of John Gibbons‘ country club approach to spring training because it does an awful job of preparing the players for the season. Alford, Pompey, and Smith Jr. will be 23, 25, and 25 years old at the start of next season, an age when many other players have begun to solidify their place at the big league level. Unless they want to be stuck down in the minors for another year in 2018, they better come into camp with the mindset that left field is theirs for the taking.
Over the next 2-3 years, the Blue Jays will be seeing a huge influx of young talent, along with the departure of aging veterans. Gone are the days of veterans automatically getting the starters job on account of seniority and the fact they have the big contract. What happens next March with respect to left field is just a precursor of what’s to come a short time from now at positions like shortstop, 3rd base and catcher when ambitious prospects look to solidify their place as starters on this ball club.