(Dunedin, FL) - It's hard not to feel a sense of pride when you look up and down the Toronto Blue Jays spring training roster and find upward of a dozen former Vancouver Canadians players vying for a spot at the game's highest level. Whether it's 3B Jason Leblebijian and OF Roemon Fields hoping to avoid Buffalo and travel north to Toronto for Opening Day or 1B Kacy Clemens just getting a few innings under his belt with the big club - you can't look more than a few feet without finding a player with a link to Vancouver.
While all eyes are on RHP T.J. Zeuch and RHP Nate Pearson over at the Minor League complex, there are a handful of former C's who are getting an extended look from Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons including INF Richard Urena and OF Dalton Pompey. For Urena, time is on his side as the 22-year old Domincian Republic infielder has already been anoited by Baseball America as one of the Blue Jays top prospects while Pompey is now beyond the title of 'prospect' and is simply looking to show that he's healthy and able to compete in Toronto.
Urena, who played a modest nine (9) games with the Canadians in 2014 alongside SS Frankin Barreto, hit .247 at Double-A New Hampshire last season in 129 games with the Fisher Cats. His stock remains high but now finds himself battling the likes of Lourdes Guerriel Jr. and South African infielder Gift Ngoepe who are looking for that same opportunity. Every at-bat, every fielding chance so important with the season now just weeks away.
Pompey is no longer the wide-eyed 21 year-old that got a chance to join the Blue Jays perhaps too soon. He struggled both at the plate and with injuries in year two and three and now is trying to show Toronto that he still has an extra gear that will put him into the mix alongside Kevin Pillar, Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce and Randal Grichuk. Pompey has company as OF Anthony Alford was praised this week by John Gibbons as the "single most impressive" prospect he's ever seen as far as development goes.
Pompey may find a better opportunity outside the organization as despite his value and ability, may have simply missed his window within the Blue Jays organization.
J.D. Davis continues to get looks at Spring Training, but likely ends up at Triple-A Buffalo alongside Roemon Fields while Jason Leblebijian's future hinges on the health of Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak as the corner infielder looks to crack the big club's roster.
RHP Andrew Case and LHP Ryan Borucki are trying to make a case for a trip north with Borucki a legitimate suitor for a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen and maybe even rotation with a standout spring. It's likely he starts in Buffalo staying close to the phone as his number will be called before season's end. Case is coming off of a solid 2017 as well as a very impressive handful of appearances in the Arizona Fall League. He'll likely head to either New Hampshire or Buffalo, but is getting plenty of opportunity with the Jays main roster in Dunedin.
The Blue Jays can take 25 north for Opening Day and the reality is most of our C's are still a year or two away - but the future is coming and for fans of baseball in Vancouver this should be a very exciting and rewarding time as more and more of our former boys are closing in on making it to the bright lights of the Major Leagues.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.