Steve Pearce Injury Allows Blue Jays to Take a Look at Dwight Smith Jr.

Another day, another Blue Jays player on the DL. Does Dwight Smith Jr. deserve a shot in Steve Pearce’s absence?

 

As was expected by most everyone, Steve Pearce landed on the DL after coming up lame in Sunday’s game legging (or attempting to leg out) a double. On Monday the Blue Jays made it official, and they called up another bat Leonel Campos.

 

Wait, Leonel Campos? Campos was added – yet again – to add length out of the bullpen. However, the addition of Campos doesn’t so much help the team, but rather shortens the bench to an almost criminal depletion of resources. Running out a nine-men bullpen is forcing a team of bench players to fill out an every day lineup while half of the Opening Day infield and the starting catcher blow bubbles from the dugout.

 

 

It’s not like Campos has been bad this season. He’s only thrown 2.2 innings, allowing a pair of hits and a walk and adding a strikeout. But even with a slightly thinned bullpen, the Jays still have an assortment of Aaron Loup, Joe Smith, J.P. Howell, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Jason Grilli, Dominic Leone and Roberto Osuna to patch together innings until the rotation is healed up and Joe Biagini returns. Is he useful? Sure. Is he necessary? Probably not.

 

The massive hole in the Blue Jays roster right now isn’t in the bullpen, even with the absence of Biagini. The Jays are running out an offense on Monday night that features two backups at third base and shortstop as well as left field. Their current every day catcher (who may very well be an elite defender) is hitting .032 and is in an every day situation. The Blue Jays don’t need another bullpen arm. They need a bat.

 

While the infield is already full of bench players, the outfield has remained mostly intact. After cutting Melvin Upton Jr.as the season started, the Jays were left with an outfield of Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce. With Pearce on the shelf, next up on the depth chart is Darrell Ceciliani. Ceciliani features a lefty bat and serviceable defense in LF, but has hit just .179 over 95 MLB at-bats, with a HR, four RBI and five stolen bases.

 

Dwight Smith Jr.

Another option would be 2011 second-rounder Dwight Smith Jr. from Triple-A Buffalo. The development road has been a long one for Smith Jr., who’s spent the last two season with Double-A New Hampshire before his promotion to Buffalo this spring. In 2015 Smith Jr. slashed .265/.332/.377 with the Fisher Cats, homering seven times and driving in 44 and stealing just four bases. In 2016 he batted .265 again, but supplemented that with an increased SLG (.433) and increasing his HR and RBI totals to 15 and 74, respectively. Smith Jr. also seemed to get his legs under him again, stealing 12 bases and getting caught seven times.

 

Register Batting
Year Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 2 Teams Rk-A- 59 244 222 25 47 9 1 4 29 1 1 17 33 .212 .279 .315 .594
2012 Vancouver A- 18 71 63 5 11 3 1 0 8 0 0 6 11 .175 .254 .254 .507
2012 Bluefield Rk 41 173 159 20 36 6 0 4 21 1 1 11 22 .226 .289 .340 .629
2013 Lansing A 109 479 423 57 120 17 3 7 46 25 5 52 82 .284 .365 .388 .753
2014 Dunedin A+ 121 533 472 83 134 28 8 12 60 15 4 58 69 .284 .363 .453 .816
2014 Mesa Fal 11 47 42 7 11 1 1 0 5 3 0 4 5 .262 .340 .333 .674
2015 New Hampshire AA 117 512 460 74 122 26 2 7 44 4 3 47 64 .265 .335 .376 .711
2016 New Hampshire AA 126 527 471 56 125 24 5 15 74 12 7 45 91 .265 .332 .433 .765
2017 Buffalo AAA 34 135 120 22 35 7 0 3 16 3 0 11 23 .292 .351 .425 .776
Mino Mino Minors 566 2430 2168 317 583 111 19 48 269 60 20 230 362 .269 .342 .404 .746
All All 577 2477 2210 324 594 112 20 48 274 63 20 234 367 .269 .342 .403 .744
AA ( AA ( Minors 243 1039 931 130 247 50 7 22 118 16 10 92 155 .265 .333 .405 .738
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2017.

 

To start the season with Buffalo, he’s been solid. Over 34 games Smith Jr. is hitting .292, the highest average he’s accomplished over a sustained time as a professional. He’s also boasting a .351 on-base percentage, up 20 points from 2015. He’s hit three HR and driven in 15 runs, on pace to threaten his 2015 totals, while he’s also 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

 

At 24, Smith Jr. really isn’t a prospect anymore, but if he can replicate maybe two-thirds of his recent MiLB production for a few weeks at the MLB level, it would be worth adding him to the 40-man roster, which at the moment sits at just 39, with no threat of Dalton Pompey or Bo Schultz coming back from the 60-day DL any time soon. It also wouldn’t hurt to have another lefty bat at their disposal.

 

Return of the Left Side

 

Of course, the return of Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson will play a large role in all of this. And according to manager John Gibbons, their return might not be so far off:

 

 

There won’t be any 40-man moves as a result of Donaldson and Tulowitzki returning from the DL, but that doesn’t mean the bench and bullpen situations get any clearer. The 10-Day DL is often lauded as the best thing to happen to baseball this year, but it’s starting to take its toll on teams with heavy injuries. Not every 10-Day DL stint can be fixed with a simple Triple-A replacement. Eventually teams and their players start running out of options. This is beginning to happen with the Blue Jays, who seem more comfortable burning the options of the pitching depth rather than addressing the needs on the field. To date, they’ve only lost Casey Lawrence (to Seattle), but their ranks could be thinned quite a bit this summer if these injuries continue.

 

Of course, when Tulowitzki and Donaldson come back, there will definitely be a bit of a roster crunch. Some pitchers will head back to Buffalo, someone will likely get DFA’d at some point, and the Jays will still have three backup infielders. Blue Jays brass will have to make something work, and one of those things might be adding Smith Jr. to the roster while removing redundant pieces.

 

 

 

*Featured Image Credit: Joel Dinda UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

 

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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.

Roy-Z

Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.