Former All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells talks about returning to the Jays and working with projected future center fielder Dalton Pompey, who played for the Lugnuts in 2012 and 2013. When asked about his own mentors, he said:
"It's amazing. In my Minor League career, there was a lot of teaching that went on. And it seems kids are getting to the big leagues a little quicker now. Some of the teaching is not as in depth as it was, so they're having to learn once they get to the big leagues. And it's tough. There's an adjustment period that happens and you're still trying to learn. It's asking a lot of a kid. For him, it's going to be a matter of relax, absorb the information that's coming to you, and try to make it work as quick as possible."
Did Dalton Pompey ascend to the big leagues quicker than Vernon Wells, giving him less MiLB education?
We begin with Vernon Wells. His sterling Major League numbers, from Baseball-Reference:
Vernon reached the Major Leagues in 1999 at age 20, played sparingly in the bigs in 2000, came up for a bit longer in 2001, and broke through as a regular in 2002 when he was 23. The next season, he was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and received MVP votes.
Here was his Minor League path:
He spent 1997 in Short-A, 1998 in Single-A, and then zipped up the ladder in 1999 (at age 20) from A-Advanced to Double-A to Triple-A to the Majors. Things stagnated a bit from there, however, with Vernon spending the majority of 2000 and 2001 in Triple-A. 2000 was rather disappointing likely for everyone concerned, but he was only 21 and playing against much older competition in the International League. At age 22, repeating the league, all was well again, sending him forth to a 15-year career.
Now to Dalton Pompey. First, Dalton's Major League stats:
Not a bad MLB debut, especially considering that the home run was slugged off of King Felix Hernandez.
The Minor League path:
Pompey debuted at age 17 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2010, played 42 more games in the GCL in 2011 before moving up for 18 games in Rookie-advanced Bluefield. He was back in Bluefield for 4 games in 2012, followed by 11 games in Short-A and 5 games in Single-A, though the year was severely hampered by injury. In 2013, at age 20, he played 115 games in Single-A and won a Gold Glove as the best defensive center fielder in the Minor Leagues. That led to 2014, when, at age 21, Pompey broke through. He aced A-Advanced, cruised through Double-A, and surprised with a dominant showing in Triple-A, leading to his Major League callup.
A side-by-side comparison:
|Age making MLB debut||20 years old||21 years old|
|Games in Rookie ball||-||75|
|Games in Short-A||66||11|
|Games in Single-A||134||120|
|Games in A-Advanced||74||70|
|Games in Double-A||26||31|
|Games in Triple-A||276||12|
Really, Dalton wasn't pushed forward quicker any than Vernon was, both of them traveling similar paths. Vernon's idea of more MiLB teaching in his day seems to signify increased Triple-A time (which clearly proved valuable).
In Dalton Pompey, we can rationally say that Vernon Wells is meeting the 2000 spring training version of himself, coming off of a tremendous climb to the Majors and ready to build on it. 2000 was where Wells ran into his first obstacle, keeping him in Triple-A for nearly the whole season. Pompey, in contrast, is being looked on to start in center field for Toronto on Opening Day. Here's hoping that working with Wells helps prepare Dalton all the more for big-league success to come.