Toronto Blue Jays: Kevin Pillar Has Chance To Fulfill Potential


Toronto Blue Jays: Kevin Pillar Has Chance To Fulfill Potential

Kevin Pillar has been a pleasant surprise so far this spring training and by all accounts is due for an increase in playing time this coming season for the Toronto Blue Jays. With some experienced outfielders in Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, there is a good balance with new and old. Saunders injury has been revealed to be not as significant as originally thought and that is great news for the Blue Jays, as they will need a good year out of him.

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After these two though there are question marks, and Pillar is definitely one of them. He has stepped in with the Blue Jays the last two years – half way to later on in the season – and has done a serviceable job. Not great, but serviceable.

He has shown he can hit in the minors, with a career .322 batting average, 32 home runs, 123 doubles, 240 runs scored and 244 RBIs in 411 games, to go along with 109 stolen bases in 142 attempts. Pillar isn’t the fastest guy on the field, but he is quick and he understands the game.

Pillar’s straight up talent won’t blow anyone away, but when you watch him play you always see a player who is fully-engaged and ready to go, and that is a great thing to see as a Blue Jays’ fan. In a league where many guys take days off, it’s nice seeing the players who are still working on their craft just to get an opportunity.

It’s also been nice to see a little offense out of Pillar in his first eight games this spring. He is hitting a modest .250 with two doubles, one home run, five RBIs, four runs scored and one stolen base. Now I know that these numbers don’t jump off the board and scream at you, but it proves something that Pillar has shown his entire baseball life and that’s that he has something to offer in almost every aspect of the game.

His ability is not at all off the charts and if there was a large televised baseball combine in college I think it’s safe to say that he wouldn’t be getting an invite. But if clutch hits like the walk-off rocket off his bat below are any indicators of his compete level, then Blue Jays’ fans should be happy.

Through his firsts couple of years with the Blue Jays, I didn’t really know what to make of him. He seemed to chase pitches, was antsy in the outfield and he really didn’t look to have an idea of who he was as a player.

It looked like he was trying to be what others around him were and with some top end talent on the Jays roster, that’s not really a realistic way for him to go about his business. Now he just looks more confident playing, he’s putting good swings on balls and is looking very comfortable taking pitches, which is something that wasn’t in his arsenal at the major league level previously.

With everything seeming to be working against Pillar. all he has ever done is find a way to pull through and at this point I don’t think he’s someone who will be denied. He won’t go 3-4 with a home run or two very often, but he will put the ball in play and make the pitcher work.

The thing with Pillar is that he just isn’t going to do much to make you want to take him out of the lineup. His hustle can force errors, his defense is straight forward but very consistent, and those things work wonders in a line-up of bashers like the Jays are.

“He’s a damned good outfielder and base runner,” Gibbons said. “His baseball instincts are as good as anybody — anybody — on this team.”

The Blue Jays signed the California State Dominguez Hill Product to a lucrative signing bonus of a whopping $1,000 dollars, but that didn’t stop him from rising from late-round draft pick to Major League Baseball Player within two years. “Clearly we missed on Kevin”, Alex Anthopolous has previously said about how the 32nd round product made it to the big leagues within two years of being in the Blue Jays organization.

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Pillar gets credit from those around him, including John Gibbons. In a sport that can be political and bases itself on the ups and downs that players go through every day, it is refreshing to see a player simply bust through.

He isn’t an easy guy to promote to the Big Leagues given his path so far and scouting departments’ careers are based on scouts making ‘safe’ choices that in essence extent said scouts contract for another year. No one will blame a scout for drafting a tall, athletic specimen from a SEC school who turns out to be a bust compared to picking up a Pillar from Division II baseball.

Regardless, Pillar has succeeded and it just seems to be a matter of continually being ready to compete right away. The Jays traded for a late bloomer this offseason in Josh Donaldson, who just a few years ago broke out into the type of player he now is.

I don’t know that Pillar has all of the same skillsets as Donaldson, but besides the straight power factor at the plate, the instincts and how they go about their business is very similar. It seems only Kevin can slow his progress now. One can only hope that he doesn’t have many spring-time allergies in Toronto causing him to sneeze too often to keep him off the field.