Toronto Blue Jays: Has Kevin Pillar Earned a Spot over Dalton Pompey?


Toronto Blue Jays: Has Kevin Pillar Earned a Spot over Dalton Pompey?

One of the perceived weaknesses of the Toronto Blue Jays heading into this season was the situation in left field, especially from an offensive perspective.

Apr 18, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) in the first half in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Management’s decision to let Melky Cabrera walk away in free agency left the Jays with a critical hole at the top of the batting order. Cabrera’s defence could be easily replaced – he always looked robotic and appeared to labour at times for what can only be described as routine fly balls – but defence was never really the strong suit of this team anyway. The Jays are built to launch baseballs into orbit and Cabrera contributed to this cause.

The Jays acquired Michael Saunders from the Seattle Mariners to compensate for the loss of Cabrera, but Saunders’ debut on the club has been delayed due to a knee injury. This created an opening for Kevin Pillar to reassert his position on the team and he’s run away with it.

From defence to offence, Pillar looks like a legitimate replacement for Cabrera (and Saunders by extension).

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In last night’s 13-6 beating of the Baltimore Orioles, Pillar went 2-5 at the plate. He brought two runners home and crossed the plate once himself. For the season, he’s hitting .255 with six RBIs and nine runs, but this belies the fact that Pillar has been providing some key hits for the Jays from the bottom of the batting order.

However, it’s really his defence that has suddenly made Pillar indispensable to the Jays. The guy basically makes a new highlight reel catch every night. It’d be insane to take his glove out of the field.

There’s a good chance Saunders will make his debut for the Jays later this week. On the surface, this suggests an end to Pillar’s impressive run in left field. That part maybe true, but it might not represent an end to Pillar’s status as an everyday player.

Whereas Pillar has exceeded expectations at the plate and in left field, another young Jay – Dalton Pompey – has struggled at times in his first full season at the big league level. He was given the reigns at centre field following the departure of Colby Rasmus, but his defence has been suspect and his offence inconsistent. Hitting just .231 with six RBIs and 10 runs, Pompey’s numbers, while similar to Pillar’s numbers, aren’t enough to compensate for his defensive miscues given the sudden depth in outfield.

Apr 9, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) gestures in the batters box against the New York Yankees during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Pillar would be an easy fit in centre field – he has a strong arm, unbelievable speed and a single-minded obsession with tracking down every ball – and he may now hold a slight advantage over Pompey when Saunders enters the lineup.

When the season began, it was simply assumed that Saunders would play in left field, Pompey would play in centre field and Pillar would provide some depth from the bench. It could be the case now that Pompey will be the depth player, adding another twist to the new season, but there’s no easy way to deny Pillar an everyday spot at the moment.

He’s earned it and the same cannot be said for Pompey. Perhaps a little sense of urgency will help Pompey pick up his defensive game.

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