Blue Jays aren’t sold on in-house options in centerfield. Is there help on the way in Toronto’s Minor League system?
Keegan Matheson posted his ‘2020 If the Season Started Today Opening Day Roster’ predictions (link). This prompted a bunch of other roster predictions to go up over Twitter and even more discussion. On our Jays From the Couch chat forum, much of our discussion centered around Keegan’s inclusion of Forrest Wall as a possible OF option. This eventually leads us down the road of other CF options currently in the Blue Jays system and outside.
This discussion got me thinking about doing a quick and dirty rundown of CF options throughout the system. To make it a little more interesting I will attempt to construct possible outfield configurations for each level, highlighting the CF and stopping at Lansing.
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
LF- Forrest Wall
RF- Billy McKinney
CF- Jonathan Davis
4th OF- Roemon Fields
Other CF Options- Santiago Espinal appeared in 12 games in CF for the 2019 New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Thoughts on the Bison Outfield
Forrest Wall played 118 games in the outfield in 2019. He appeared in CF for the Fisher Cats 83 times and zero games in CF for the Herd. All of his Triple-A games in which he played the field were in LF.
McKinney split his time between the LF and RF in Buffalo and Toronto.
Jonathan Davis has a decent season for the Herd in 2019. Davis split his time between LF (22GP) and CF (48GP) during his time at Triple-A. Davis made 35 starts for the Blue Jays, 33 games were in CF.
Fields played 53 games in CF, 24 games in RF, and 15 games in LF. It is possible the speedy outfielder is cut prior to Opening Day but for now, he is active.
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats
LF- Brock Lundquist
CF- Joshua Palacios
RF- Demi Orimoloye
4th OF- Chavez Young
Other CF Options- Ryan Noda played 53 games between LF and RF which should open the door for other OF options to play some CF.
Thoughts on the Fisher Cats Outfield
First, just because Chavez Young is listed as the 4th OF doesn’t mean I think he is a bench player. Young will get everyday at-bats with Demi, Joshua, and Brock get days off from playing the field.
Joshua Palacios can hit and could turn into an extra-base machine. Unfortunately, he missed time in 2019, appearing in just 82 games. He did bat .266 with 18 doubles, 2 triples, 7HR, and 15SB while splitting his time in the outfield between CF (35GP), RF (26GP), and LF (15GP).
Brock Lundquist played 88 games in LF. He is one year removed from hitting 18HR but only hit 6 in 108 games at AA. Still, he collected 20 doubles and 3 triples.
Chavez Young made 87 starts in CF for the 2019 Dunedin Blue Jays. He also made 21 starts in RF. Unfortunately, Young struggled in the 1st half batting just .224 with a .649OPS while batting .266 and a .685OPS in the 2nd half. Young isn’t as polished a hitter as Palacios but he is a better defender which could force Palacios to DH more often.
Demi Orimoloye started 76 games in RF for the 2019 D-Jays. He also made 7 starts in LF. Like Young, Demi had a terrible 1st half but played much better in the 2nd half. If Orimoloye struggles with the Fisher Cats, it could open the door for more playing time in RF for Young or Palacios.
A+ Dunedin Blue Jays
LF- Norberto Obeso
CF- Reggie Pruitt
RF- Griffin Conine
4th OF- Tanner Kirwer
Other CF Options- Thanks to a season-ending foot injury suffered by Jordan Groshans, Otto Lopez settled in the Lansing Lugnuts everyday shortstop role in 2019. With Groshans expected back at SS and with the D-Jays, Lopez could once again be a man with a position. In 2018 He played 3 games in CF while spending 11 games in LF during 2019. CF could an option to get his bat into the lineup.
Thoughts on the D-Jays Outfield
The 4th outfield spot could be up for grabs but I decided to hand it to Kirwer. He posted better numbers than Hunter Steinmetz and DJ Neal despite playing less games due to injury. Kirwer plays all three OF positions but has appeared in CF the most since being drafted in 2017.
Griffin Conine….lots of power and lots of strikeouts. Conine played 74 games in RF.
Norberto Obeso played 37 games in LF and 15 in RF. He doesn’t have much power but has strong on-base skills. His job is at risk.
Reggie Pruitt has speed to burn, stealing 48 bases in 2019. He is a slow-developing prospect. His glove is near ML ready but his bat is far from ready. Pruitt played 96 in CF between Lansing and Dunedin. He also played 9 games in LF for the D-Jays. With just 21 games in the FSL under his belt, I feel very confident that Pruitt will be the D-Jays everyday CF.
A-Ball Lansing Lugnuts
LF- DJ Neal
CF- Cameron Eden
RF- Will Robertson
4th- Mc Gregory Contreras
Other CF Options- These options come from other levels rather than other positions. Eric Rivera split his time with Bluefield between LF (20GP) and CF (33GP) while batting .284 with a .378OBP. Unfortunately, Rivera didn’t hit for much power in his rookie season.
Thoughts on the Lugnuts Outfield
When you get this far down the system the competition for playing is vast. It can come from players who need to repeat the level (Hunter Steinmetz and DJ Neal) or players graduating from Vancouver (Robertson, Eden, or Contreras) and Bluefield (Rivera or Justin Ammons). Quite simply, some guys are bound to get left behind.
Side Note- A really really really big long shot would be Dasan Brown claiming the Lugnuts CF job. He is most likely destined for Bluefield.
Will Robertson played 54 games in the C’s outfield, 50 in RF and 4 in LF. Strong line-drive hitter and excellent feel for the strike zone.
Eden, listed as a SS, played 44 games in CF. He also made 2 starts at 2B, 3 at 3B, and 1 at SS. Eden only batted .220 with a .576OPS; therefore, a strong Spring by Steinmetz or Rivera or Ammons could cost Eden the job. It is also possible that Kirwer remains in Lansing and assumes the everyday reps in CF which would likely have Eden back in Vancouver.
DJ Neal split his time with the 2019 Lugnuts between all three outfield positions. Over his three year career, Neal has mostly played RF. Neal missed time in May and August, playing a total of 84 games while batting just .238 with a .289OBP. DJ is a low risk, high reward gamble draft pick. Much like Reggie Pruitt or DJ Daniels. Still lots of work to be done.
Unfortunately, there are not any top tier CF prospects making their way through the system. That is not to say the system is void of CF prospects. While Forrest Wall or Joshua Palacios could surprise fans during Spring Training, their chances of making the club are unlikely. Neither are on the 40-man roster; however, CF options Jonathan Davis, Anthony Alford, and Derek Fisher are on the 40-man roster. It makes zero sense to add either.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we see the Blue Jays prioritize CF during the 2020 Draft and International Free Agent signing period. I know JFtC writer Karen would love it if Oscar Colas signed with Toronto.
Another solution would be to convert an infielder to CF. Might I suggest Orelvis Martinez? With Bo Bichette locking down SS in Toronto, hopefully for the next decade plus, shifting Martinez to CF might be wise. Just a thought.
Featured image credit: R.Mueller
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