With Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith Jr getting their first taste of playing in the majors, Blue Jays fans are getting a glimpse of their future outfield
The thing with injuries is that they provide opportunities for part-time players to get full-time at-bats or minor league prospects their first taste of the major leagues.
The Blue Jays lineup has been beset with injuries, missing three regulars (Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin). Toronto’s front office decided to give its bench players (including call-up Chris Coghlan) a chance to hold down the fort while the regulars recovery.
Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins, Coghlan, Luke Maile and Mike Ohlman have performed admirably while providing a few clutch hits/moments. But when left fielder Steve Pearce landed on the disabled list with right calf tightness on May 15th the Front Office had to look beyond the bench, bringing up Darrell Ceciliani.
Ceciliani was batting just .188 in 21 games with the Triple-A Bisons, hardly worthy of a promotion; however, with minor league options and occupying a spot on the 40-man roster, he was the logical choice.
Then Kevin Pillar received a 2-game suspension for uttering a homophobic slur directed at Atlanta’s relief pitcher Jason Motte. This opened the door for a long time Blue Jays prospect and former 1st round pick Dwight Smith Jr. who was enjoying a resurgent season with the Triple-A Bisons.
Ceciliani appeared in his first game of 2017 with the Blue Jays on May 16th as a pinch runner, then as a pinch hitter on May 17th, and got his first start on May 18th. After an injury-riddled 2016, finally getting a start in the major leagues must have felt like a dream for Darrell; unfortunately, it ended more like a nightmare. Ceciliani injured his shoulder on a home run swing, potentially ending his season before it began.
This injury pushed the Blue Jays Front Office to promote Anthony Alford, the system’s top outfield prospect. Alford was enjoying a very successful season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the farm system’s Double-A affiliate.
Dwight Smith Jr., long been viewed to have the makings of the 4th outfielder, and Anthony Alford, future major center fielder, have taken different routes to the majors but both have the talent to stick.
Dwight Smith Jr
Smith Jr. was drafted in 2011, played 568 minor league games, and appeared to have stalled in Double-A before batting .297 as regular with the 2017 Triple-A Bisons.
Alford was drafted in 2012, played 257 minor league games, and is rated by Baseball America as baseball’s 34th Top Prospect.
With Pillar’s suspension over, Dwight Smith Jr. was returned to the Buffalo Bisons after just 3 at-bats (one walk and two strikeouts) but he accomplished two very important goals. He was added to the 40-man roster and made it to the majors.
Anthony Alford remains with the team but will likely be returned to New Hampshire soon with Martin back with the club and Tulo and JD very close to rejoining the club. Alford now has one major league game under his belt, with 2 at-bats including a strike out.
It is possible next season the Blue Jays could field an outfield of Dwight Smith Jr. in left, Kevin Pillar in center, and Anthony Alford in right. I’m not suggesting this trio would be the every day or Opening Day outfield alignment but this OF trio is a very real possibility at some point next year, maybe even this season.
If Toronto continues to spin their tires in the American League East basement change will be on the horizon with trades coming. Not a rebuild. Not a teardown. The trading of players not viewed as ‘the future’ will be dangled and players like Dwight Smith Jr and Anthony Alford will be given a chance to play every day with the hopes of nailing down a spot on the 2018 squad.
*Featured Image Mandatory Credit: Kris Robinson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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