Sure, we feature a ton of prospects in our Top 50 lists each season, but as Yan Gomes has taught us recently, some of the least heralded prospects sometimes deserve just as much attention as the most heralded. Of all things, we shouldn’t take their accomplishments lightly, whether it’s a hot streak, a promotion, or a great half season!
One such prospect is none other than Lansing’s Kevin Pillar, one of my favourite dark horse Jays prospects. You can follow him on Twitter: @KPILLAR4.
Pillar hails from California, went to Cal State, is 6’0″ and 200 lbs, bats right, throws right, and is 23 years old. Some would call that old for his level, while I think from what he’s shown so far in Lansing, he’s definitely too good for the level as well!
2012 Stats: .322/.390/.451 with 29 extra base hits in 335 ABs, striking out only 53 times while walking 35 and stealing 35 bases
His 35 stolen bases put him ahead of Anthony Gose in the steals department, just to give you a feel for how fast this guy really is, and he has only been caught 6 times while Gose has been caught 9 times.
Not bad for a 32nd round guy from the 2011 draft! Makes you appreciate the work Jays scouts do!
That’s not all, of course, as Pillar had already shown his promise last season when he hit .347/.377/.534 with 27 extra base hits in 236 ABs for Bluefield and made the Appy League Post Season All-Star team. That was his first pro season, one that had him steal only 8 bases in 12 attempts, the only major difference between the 2 seasons he has under his belt so far.
There’s a great Pillar article written by Matt Parker available here, and JaysProspects.com has a small interview available with Pillar available here. The best quote from the interview is when he was asked about where his fearlessness comes from. He responded by stating:
“I believe in the Pete Rose mentality when you play you give it all you have all the time”
That fearlessness, and work ethic, is what has made Pillar into a defensive star as well as a great hitter. He’s the type of player that you know is going to show up every day and give you just about as consistent a game as you can get. If there’s one thing that I know Baseball coaches and managers love, it’s consistency. They can predict it, they can work with it, and it keeps them comfortable.
So what’s next for the speedy and surprisingly powerful Pillar? Do the Jays promote him to Dunedin at some point this summer? I sure hope so, as he has done nothing but earn it all season long. That doesn’t mean that I want the Jays to rush him along, but there’s also no need to hold him back simply because he’s the best hitter on the Lansing roster.
Speaking of which, Pillar leads the Lugnuts in steals (35), hits (108, 13 more than Chris Hawkins), RBI (57, 8 more than KC Hobson), Average (.322), and OPS (.841). He sits 3rd in doubles (20), 2nd in triples (4), and tied for 4th with Carlos Perez in HRs with 5.
You may ask, where are his weaknesses, or what is he working on in LoA? Well, I can tell you that Pillar struggles a little more versus LHP than RHP (.286 vs .333) and also dips a little bit with the bases empty (.289/.366/.404). But when you consider that he hits .355/.415/.497 with runners on and an even better .383/.440/.550 with runners in scoring position, you definitely see that this guy is a clutch performer. When it counts and you have a chance to get some runs in, he’ll do the job.
For his efforts this season, Pillar has already won 1 Midwest league player of the week award and was in their mid-season all star game. We hope to continue watching a healthy and determined Kevin Pillar march up the minors ladder. I’ll surely be promoting his efforts again in the near future, as I don’t believe he’s going anywhere but up!