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.
Per #BlueJays: Prior to tonight's game, Steve Pearce placed on 10-day DL with Right calf strain. Leonel Campos recalled from Buffalo.
— Laura Armstrong (@lauraarmy) May 15, 2017
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.
#BlueJays now have a two-man bench, a nine-man bullpen
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) May 15, 2017
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.
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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
John Gibbons says Tulo should be back in Atlanta & Donaldson "by the weekend..we'll see" #BlueJays
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) May 15, 2017
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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