Is it Time to Think About Roemon Fields?

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Sportsnet photo

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:

Roemon Fields
mlbfarm.com graphic

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.

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Who Do The Blue Jays Risk Losing in the Rule 5 Draft?

MiLB: SEP 23 Florida Instructional League -  Blue Jays Work Out
Max Pentecost Sportsnet.ca photo

Baseball’s Rule 5 draft takes place this Thursday, as the annual winter meetings draw to a close.

The Blue Jays have been participants in the past two Rule 5s, striking paydirt with Joe Biagini two years ago, but whiffing on Glenn Sparkman last year.

It’s impossible to predict who the Blue Jays might be considering, but given their depth at several everyday positions and starting pitching, it’s safe to say they may look at adding another arm – and there are many availabe.  With the 12th pick, some of the better candidates may be off the board, however.  One off-the-radar pick might be Tampa C Nick Ciuffo, who like Stu Turner with the Reds last year, might stick as a back up.  One of Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire are the favourites at the moment to back Russ Martin up, but Ciuffo might help buy both a little more development time.   Another name which might intrigue the Jays is Twins RHP Kohl Stewart.  Stewart, the 4th overall pick in 2013, has a blazing fastball, but troubles repeating his delivery have led to high walk totals throughout his pro career.  If the Jays are serious about contending in 2018, they likely won’t take a chance on this talented but enigmatic pitcher.

What is possible to forecast is who might be taken among the players the Blue Jays chose to leave off their 40-man roster last month.  There are several players who might be selected:

  1.  C/1B Max Pentecost  was something of a surprise omission from the 40, but the Blue Jays are obviously gambling that his history of shoulder issues will dissuade teams from taking him.  There have been some reports that some teams might consider selecting him and stashing him on the 60 day DL, but it’s hard to see how that will be beneficial to his development.  Pentecost is a premium athlete, but he needs more time in the minors.
  2. OF Roemon Fields has elite speed, but has struggled to get on base throughout his minor league career.  This year, he managed a .344 OBP between Buffalo and New Hampshire – maybe not enough for the top of an order, but certainly a good fit for the singles hitters that tend to populate the bottom of most batting orders.  Fields can play all three OF positions, and his 50 steals this season underscore his speed.
  3. OF Jonathan Davis  has quietly gotten on base at every level he’s played at.  Like Fields, he can play all three OF spots, and unlike Fields has some pop in his bat.  Davis has speed, but is not in Fields’ category.  Both could profile as fourth outfielder types. Davis opened some eyes in the Arizona Fall League.
  4. Jordan Romano RHP the Markham, ON native has pitched in a starter’s role well since returning from Tommy John surgery in May, 2016.  But his command may concern some, and for those considering converting him to a relief role, he’s never pitched above High A.  There is probably too much pitching depth in this draft for Romano to be selected.
  5. Emerson Jimenez RHP  if you’ve never heard of Jimenez before, don’t be alarmed – few Blue Jays fans have.  Originally signed as an OF by the Rockies in 2012, he advanced as far as AA before being released in May.  Toronto signed him, and sent Jimenez to the Gulf Coast League to begin his conversion to the mound.  Pitching exclusively in relief, he fanned 23 in 15 innings.  Jimenez is raw in Pitching terms, but his fastball sits 94-99, and his change up has been described as surprisingly advanced.
  6. Francisco Rios RHP Rios had success as a starter in the lower levels, but struggled in AA this year.  Rios sits 90-92, but has some deception with his delivery, and has a slider that would play role in a relief role with that fastball, which would likely tick up.  Again, with the depth of this draft crop, it’s hard to see a team selecting Rios.

I really enjoyed this piece by J.J. Cooper of Baseball America on the Rule 5.  Coming at the end of the winter meetings, it comes at a time when many baseball executives are anxious to get out of Dodge and catch their flights back home.