With Blue Jays Spring Training 2018 upon us, Jays From the Couch is set to look closer at the Non-Roster Invitees
Not every minor league prospect is selected in the Draft or signed as an International Free Agent with the expectation that one day they’ll become a ‘Top Prospect’. Some are simply signed/drafted to provide the organization with bodies; however, many ‘organizational filler’ prospects discover something within themselves. They defy the odds, fighting off complacency to climb the minor leagues until their existence can no longer be ignored.
The Toronto Blue Jays have invited a trio of speedy outfielders to this year’s Spring Training which checks many of the boxes listed above.
Non-Roster Invitees Roemon Fields, Jonathan Davis (J.D. Davis), and D.J. Davis joined Toronto’s organization in very different ways. Fields came to the Blue Jays as an undrafted Free Agent and Jonathan Davis was a 15th round draft pick, while D.J. Davis was a highly touted 1st round selection.
Davis struggled to stay on the field early in his minor league career. With good health and a pair of breakout seasons, he has pushed his way onto the Blue Jays Top 30 Prospect list. He has plus speed, surprising power with an average eye at the plate. He plays good defense but a lack of arm strength has him projected in LF.
This Davis joined the Blue Jays as a 17-yr-old loaded with tools; unfortunately, those tools were very very raw.
- 2012 ranked #6
- 2013 ranked #3
- 2014 ranked #21
- 2015 ranked #10
So why did Davis fall from #10 in 2015 to an afterthought?
While some minor leaguers move up one level at a time, others are able to conquer multiple levels per season. D.J. is neither of these. D.J. developmental trend has him requiring a season of failure followed by a season of success.
- 2014- .583 OPS
- 2015- .731 OPS
- 2016- .558 OPS
- 2017- .655 OPS
The 23-yr-old Davis continues to learn ‘his’ game. He once swung from his heels far too much but now focuses on utilizing his elite speed to impact games. Davis stole a career-high 32 bases in 2017, being caught just 11 times.
Davis still possesses raw power with strong wrists; unfortunately, recognizing offspeed pitches combined with a tendency to be a free swinger has resulted in poor OBP and too many wasted at-bats.
Davis will head to New Hampshire this season. He will be given every opportunity to play every day as the Fisher Cats left fielder; however, we can expect him to struggle in 2018 if history is an indicator.
The Mississippi native will be competing for at-bats in New Hampshire with several outfield prospects. He will need to get off to a strong start or risk being cast as a 4th outfielder/pinch runner.
While D.J. Davis carried the label of ‘Top Prospect’, Fields carries the label of ‘Org Filler’. While Baseball America honored Fields with a number 13 ranking in 2015, the 27-yr-old speedster continues to be overlooked.
In 442 games, Roemon Fields has 188 stolen bases and just 53 unsuccessful attempts. He burst onto the scene with a league-leading and Vancouver Canadians record-setting 48 bases in 2014. He followed that up with an exceptional 2015 season which saw him move up three levels, finishing with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
He spent 2016 in Double-A New Hampshire and 2017 in Triple-A (all but 16 games to start the year).
Obviously, Roemon Fields has the speed to burn and is a smart baserunner but he also uses his speed to play a mean centerfield. He has a below average arm and very little power to speak of (7 home runs in 1686 at-bats) but with 50 stolen bases in 2017, a single is as good as double.
Fields will attempt to repeat his successful 2017 (.291 BA, .707 OPS, and 43 SB) with a return to Buffalo. However, with MLB hopefuls Teoscar Hernandez and Anthony Alford expected to start the season in Buffalo, along with returning outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. and Ian Parmley, and Jonathan Davis knocking on the door, Fields will need to fight to hold off becoming a Triple-A fourth outfielder.
Spring and 2018 Outlook
This group of NRI can expect to get a bunch of late-inning/split squad playing time this spring. They have zero chance at making the major league squad but their performance will go a long way in deciding their status for the upcoming minor league season.
I expect Fields to be the Bisons 4th outfielder with DSJ in LF, Alford in CF, and Teoscar in RF. Toronto’s season would need to be a complete wash for Fields to make his MLB debut with the Blue Jays in 2018.
I expect Jonathan Davis to return as the Fisher Cats CF in 2018. Jonathan Davis should get a chance at making his Triple-A debut in 2018.
Lastly, I expect D.J. Davis to see 4th outfielder playing time in Double-A with Harold Ramirez and Connor Panas fighting over RF, Andrew Guillotte in LF, and Jonathan Davis getting the bulk of his playing in CF.
P.S.- If healthy, Dalton Pompey throws a wrench into all my predictions.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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