Roemon Fields’ signing by Blue Jays scout Matt Bishoff at an amateur tournament in British Columbia after going undrafted is one of the great feel-good stories in the organization. And after a solid second half at AAA Buffalo last year and a sizzling spring training this year, he has to be in the conversation for a spot on the Blue Jays 25-man roster at some point this year.
Fields was the classic speedster who couldn’t steal 1st for his first three years in the organization. He did set a Northwest League record for stolen bases with Vancouver, but he had difficulty getting on base at a consistent clip to take advantage of his speed. Fields bottomed out at AA New Hampshire in 2016, slashing .227/.295/.296, with a 17.6% K rate.
Fields repeated AA last year, but injuries at Buffalo earned him an early promotion. And under the tutelage of hitting coach Devon White, he began to turn things around. Last June, after posting a 1.020 OPS in May, he told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi:
“I’ve been working on a consistent swing and (hitting coach) Devon White has been telling me to hit my strong points and I’ve been sticking to it,” says Fields. “I’m starting to be my old self and not be too mechanical – see the ball, hit the ball. I’m more of a middle-away guy, hit that six-hole, left field, up the middle, not really a big pull guy. So I’m trying to stay to my strong points.”
Buffalo Manager Bobby Meacham observed that Fields got back to a Blue Jays system fundamental – hunting the fastball:
“That’s everybody’s kryptonite, so to speak, they can’t hit the breaking ball but they start looking for it, then they forget what they can hit and it’s the fastball,” says Meacham. “What I’ve seen this season with Ro is right away he’s hitting the fastball well and staying on the fastball. Even with him in the midst of him swinging good, I said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to remember this, stay on the fastball and you’ll be OK, you’ve got to discipline yourself to it.’”
A fixture at the bottom of Buffalo’s lineup, where he served as a second leadoff hitter, Fields did not stop hitting as the summer progressed, even though he began to see a heavier diet of off speed pitches. What he began to do was to use the whole field effectively:
While at Buffalo, Fields produced a career-high 21.8% Line Drive rate. While he’ll always be more of a ground ball hitter, Fields’ approach clearly paid off, as he put more balls in play that at any other point in his career. And he hasn’t stopped hitting this spring, posting a line of .357/.413/.595 in 44 ABs. Granted, spring training stats can be misleading, because they’re very much about at what point in the game they’ve mostly been compiled, but Fields has a respectable 6.2 Opponent Quality index, meaning that he’s faced some lower level Pitchers, but he’s also faced some AAA/MLB guys as well.
Fields has been lost in the shuffle this spring. Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce, Kevin Pillar, and Randall Grichuk will head north for Opening Day, while Anthony Alford or Teoscar Hernandez may be the first call ups from Buffalo. And even the Bisons’ outfield will be crowded, if you throw in a healthy Dalton Pompey, Dwight Smith Jr, and Fields on top of Hernandez and Alford – some even suggest Fields will start in AA. Fields’ value lies more in the fact that his skills seem suited to a reserve role. An outstanding defensive player, Fields can play all three OF spots. He can also come off the bench late in the game in pinch-running situations. A return to Buffalo will give him a chance to work with new Hitting Coach Corey Hart, who is a rising star in the organization.
Blue Jays radio voice Mike Wilner mentioned on the broadcast today that he and another Sportsnet member had lunch with the late Mel Didier, a legendary scout with decades of experience two springs ago. When asked which Blue Jays off-the-radar prospect Didier thought might break through, he replied with Fields’ name.
At 27, Fields is just entering his prime. A player of his build (5’11″/180) will age fairly well, so his speed should continue to be an asset into his early 30s. He wouldn’t necessarily, say, supplant Pillar in CF, but he could fill a valuable role for the team off the bench.