For the Blue Jays, left field is not a particularly strong position in the minor league systems but few players actually get drafted to play left field.
Left field is another position (like first base) that players get shunted to as they move down the defensive spectrum. Typically, players who have shown that they can contribute well with the bat but can’t play other positions get moved to left. It is also a repository for outfielders who don’t have the speed and range to play center or the arm to play right.
2014 Toronto Blue Jays Organizational Depth Chart (projected) — Left Field
1. Melky Cabrera – ML
2. Kevin Pillar – AAA
3. Brett Carroll – AAA
4. Ricardo Nanita – AAA/AA
5. Brian Van Kirk (suspended to start season) – AA
6. Marcus Knecht – A+/AA
7. Dwight Smith – A+
8. Chris Hawkins – A/A+
9. Brenden Kalfus – SS-A/A
10. Jonathan Davis – SS-A/A
11. Derrick Loveless – SS-A/A
12. Thomas Collins (Boomer) – SS-A
13. Nathan DeSouza – R/R+
14. Leudy Garcia – FR/R
This isn’t a particularly awe inspiring group when it comes to their upside. As mentioned above, left field is where minor league outfielders go when there are better players who merit more playing time at center and right field. Near the top of the list is Kevin Pillar who falls perfectly into this category. Pillar can play center or right but doesn’t have the elite range of Kenny Wilson or Anthony Gose or the cannon of an arm like Brad Glenn or Moises Sierra. Thus, Pillar gets stuck in left where his bat not projected to be his biggest asset.
You might not recognize Brian Van Kirk’s name but he has been a very good organizational otufielder for the Blue Jays. He won’t be playing to start the season because he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive a second time for a drug of abuse. He doesn’t have a lot of power but has been able to get on base a lot. However, this works against him, especially considering that he’s already 28 and will be behind the rest of the group once 2014 starts.
Marcus Knecht is a good Canadian boy from Toronto who has been putting up decent numbers in the minors. After a “breakout” season in 2011 in Lansing, Knecht hasn’t progressed in his two seasons in Dunedin. Still only 23, he’ll likely be moved up to New Hampshire to see what he can do.
Knecht will probably move up because Dwight Smith is likely going to be the every day left fielder in Dunedin. While Smith had a big season for Lansing in 2013, he doesn’t profile as a typical power-hitting left fielder and lacks the range and arm to play in center or right. He does have a lot of things going for him (excellent contact skills, patient at the plate, gap power, excellent base running) so it will be interesting to see how he develops.
Below Dunedin, thinks look murkier, mainly because a) it’s unclear as to who will be playing center/right field, and b) players generally haven’t had the opportunity to play themselves out of the other positions. One player to keep an eye on is Jonathan Davis who played with Bluefield last year. Davis is a smaller guy (5’10”) but built very strongly. He has a lot of speed and a mature approach at the plate and could take a big step in 2014 after a long college season followed by a lot of playing time in the Appalachian League. Word was that he was playing hurt much of the time so if he’s healthy for 2014, he could be the type of guy who breaks out. I’d also keep my eye on Derrick Loveless. A lot of guys are going to be squeezed for playing time in Lansing and below.
The last guy that I think will be fun to watch, mainly because I have no idea of where he’ll play in 2014 is Boomer Collins. One of the oldest players on the Blue Jays’ GCL team in 2013, he was far too good for that league and he’ll be further up the ladder this season but where? Will he land in Vancouver with a lot of other college-age players? Or will he move to Lansing to be a backup?
I’m not going to give you an “Auxiliary” list of left fielders, mainly because just about any outfielder can play there. You’d see a list of practically every outfielder in the system. The important thing to keep in mind is that for a player to make the bigs as a left fielder, he’ll usually have to show a lot of prowess with the bat.