Michael Saunders stepped on soft spot around underground sprinkler on outfield grass while shagging flies yesterday. Left knee buckled.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) February 26, 2015
And there it is.
One misstep on the field has left the Blue Jays scrambling for a replacement for the injured Michael Saunders, who is now out until the All Star break with a torn meniscus.
This certainly opens the door wider for Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey to earn jobs with the big club this spring, but with the trade of Anthony Gose for Devon Travis, it points out how thin the Blue Jays are at that position, and may force an earlier than anticipated dealing of surplus catcher Dioner Navarro.
Here's a sampling of Outfielders the Blue Jays have drafted since Alex Anthopoulos took over as GM:
Dalton Pompey 2010/16
Jacob Anderson 2011/1st supp.
Dwight Smith 2011/1st supp.
Derrick Loveless 2011/27
Kevin Pillar 2011/32
D.J. Davis 2012/1st
Anthony Alford 2012/3rd
Ian Parmley 2012/7th
D.J. Jones 2012/20th
Josh Almonte 2012/22nd
Jonathan Davis 2013/15th
Chaz Frank 2013/20th
Brendan Kalfus 2013/23rd
Lane Thomas 2014/5th
On the one hand, this list should not be a surprise. The Blue Jays have loaded up on pitching with many of their top picks over the last 4 drafts - again, no surprise, because "grow the arms, buy the bats" is a time-honoured and accepted practice in the industry. Scouting pitchers is more quantifiable than hitters, because there are more common benchmarks (velocity, break on the curve ball, repeating the delivery, etc) to use when evaluating a pitching prospect.
Many players drafted at one position also tend to outgrow that spot, sometime necessitating a move to the outfield, so the relative lack of drafted outfielders the Jays have drafted isn't a huge concern.
At the same time, of the players on the above list, only Pompey and Pillar have played above High A ball. Anderson has had 10 AB in the past three seasons, Davis was a disappointment after his first year of full season ball, and Alford has shown that despite his impressive toolkit, he still is several years away.
Anthopolous has several options here, including dealing Navarro and/or some of that minor league pitching depth, but either way, his hand has been forced, and outside of Dwight Smith (who has been auditioned at second), there's no one in the system who is remotely close.
Another option might be to try Travis in the outfield. The Tigers were planning on giving him a trial in the Arizona Fall League there, until he was sidelined by an injury. Learning a new position at the major league level is not optimal, however.