The Blue Jays have quietly assembled a group of toolsy, athletic Outfielders, and may add another this June if local product Tristan Pompey is available with the 12th pick.
Pompey may seem like a reach at that point in the draft; many publications have him lower (Baseball America has him at 20th in their most recent rankings), but there are several reasons why he could be a fit for Toronto.
An ankle injury has limited Pompey’s playing time with Kentucky so far this spring to five starts and several pinch-hitting appearances, but he’s still managed to reach base in 44 straight games in a streak dating back to last year. Currently slotted behind fellow collegians Travis Swaggerty and Griffin Conine by BA, his lack of playing time has seen him fall behind his peers this spring.
Pompey was an All-American after an impressive sophomore year. He was drafted by the Twins in 2015 in the 31st round, but opted to go the collegiate route. A switch-hitter like his brother Dalton, the 6’4″ Pompey offers a speed and power mix that’s enticing to scouts. He has the bloodlines, but he may offer more pop with his bat.
After a pedestrian freshman campaign at Kentucky, Pompey broke out in a big way last year, posting a 1.005 OPS. A less than impressive summer in the Cape League may have taken away from that somewhat (although he was still the loop’s 6th-best prospect), but Pompey had elevated himself into the first round, according to veteran scout Ted Lekas, writing for 2080baseball.com:
Well-proportioned, athletic body with width to his shoulder and hips; five-tool player; open stance that closes at contact; quick bat; plus bat speed with a good trigger, gets bat through the hitting zone with quick hands and wrists; feel for the barrel; strength, loft and leverage to his swing; plus power potential; above-average runner out of the box and double-plus runner underway with good running stride; plus defensive actions seen in right field with good routes, jumps, and reads; plus range, glides to the ball; above-average arm with good carry; potential first-round tools for the 2018 MLB Draft who should hold down center field for the Wildcats; should be one of the top players in the SEC.
Jeff Ellis of Scout.com, who we spoke to regarding the draft from a Blue Jays perspective, is higher on Pompey than many other analysts. Ellis points out that Pompey plays in the SEC, which is the best conference in college baseball:
When you compare his stats against a Travis Swaggerty who’s not facing the same level of competition, you wonder if you put Pompey in that conference what his numbers would be like.
Ellis saw a considerable amount of Pompey and teammate Evan White, who was a first-round selection of the Mariners last year, and said that Pompey was far and away the more impressive prospect. Pompey works the count well, and while he’s played LF/RF primarily for the Wildcats, Ellis feels that he runs and reacts to batted balls well enough to become a serviceable CF.
At the plate, Pompey has an upright, slightly open stance. There’s some movement in his bat prior to starting his load, and his swing can be long, but his hands are quick, and he takes a very fast, direct path to the ball. He shows great feel for the barrel, and gets out of the box in a hurry:
There is some swing-and-miss to Pompey’s game: a 27% K rate his freshman year, and a 23% clip so far this year. But he has a proven track record, and as Ellis reminds, Toronto “values production.” If he misses more time due to his ankle, Pompey may slide in the draft rankings, but there are many reasons to believe that he won’t move down the Blue Jays board.