Blue Jays' Spring Training is well underway, but questions still remain about what the club plans to do in left field.
There are plenty of options with upwards of five candidates, including one in Steve Pearce who can also be used at first base. The problem is identifying which player gives Toronto its best shot in the lineup and in the field.
Here's a closer look at who's in the mix and what's at stake in the weeks ahead:
Pearce: He has spent most of his career as a part-time player, but the Blue Jays are considering him for a much bigger role. Pearce is still a candidate to start at first base against lefties, but he also might get the nod in left versus righties. Injuries have played a role in Pearce's lack of a full season, but he has a career .728 OPS against right-handed pitching and an .852 OPS against southpaws over 1,639 career at-bats. Pearce has yet to make his debut this spring following last year's right elbow surgery, but he will be ready for Opening Day.
Melvin Upton Jr.: Upton is trying to win an everyday job this spring, but he seems likely to maintain last year's platoon role. Upton is a candidate to start in left field against lefties, and he could also enter games as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. Upton hit 20 home runs last season, so there is some clear upside in the bat, but he has a career .708 OPS versus righties compared to a .760 OPS for lefties.
Ezequiel Carrera: Pearce's playing time will have a direct impact on Carrera's ability to contribute. If Pearce gets a lot of time in left field, it's hard to envision much of a role for Carrera outside of pinch-running or entering the game as a defensive replacement. If Pearce sticks mostly to first base, that opens the door for Carrera to form some type of platoon with Upton. The problem is Upton/Carrera don't pair well, with Carrera hitting better against lefties than righties last season.
Dalton Pompey: Carrera might be the unknown, but Pompey is the wild card. He's still just 24 years old, and he possesses the exact type of skill set this lineup needs. He's a switch-hitter, he can run, he has a little bit of power and he knows how to take a walk. It seems like a perfect fit, but Pompey needs to prove that he can perform on a consistent basis. Odds are he starts in the Minors, but he has an opportunity to force the issue this spring. Homering in his debut was a good start.
Outside help: The Blue Jays have been linked to free agent Angel Pagan in recent days, and there is interest from the ballclub, but a fit between these two sides doesn't seem likely. Toronto is committed to its current group of outfielders who are competing for time, and the organization doesn't want to interrupt that process by offering someone like Pagan a big league deal. Pagan has yet to find the right offer, but he's also not at the stage of his career where he's content to just enter the mix as a depth piece. There has to be more of a guarantee for a possible role, and with Toronto -- at least now -- that's not possible.