Pillar batting for the Dunedin Blue Jays (Image courtesy battersbox.ca)

Reviewing the Kevin Pillar Sleeper Prospect List

For prospect lovers, the first two weeks of June provided a smorgasboard of content.  Not only was it time for the Rule 4 Amateur Draft (known more simply as the draft), but extended spring training wound down and short season rosters were announced and the leagues got underway.  For me personally, that meant my focus started to drift more towards the Vancouver Canadians. Which is why, this particular article, started in early June, is only now being finished.

I was hoping to do monthly reviews of my pre-season Kevin Pillar Sleeper Prospect List, tied in with my weekly Oranizational Filler(In) series.  Unfortunately, time restrictions have limited me somewhat, but hey, better late than never.

Some of the names on the list have made me look pretty good, starting with the list’s namesake.  Others, not so much.

Couple of quick notes.  Commenters on my original article were keen to add a couple of names to the list, which I have done.  I also forgot to lose one of the younger third basemen I had originally written about.  However, when knocking up a table at fangraphs.com it seems the works was done for me as Gustavo Perinan hasn’t played this season.  I can’t find him on a roster either so am going to assume he is not on the disabled list and was released.  You’ll noticed that Eric Arce‘s numbers are truncated as well.  Seems he was also released.  Given he had a .953 OPS at the time I’ll speculate that discipline played a role.

My custom table in fangraphs just won’t crowbar its way into the article in any sort of readable fashion, so, instead, here’s a link to the table.  The players with no teams have seen multiple levels (which the stats encompass), I’ll add teams below:

Wins:

Despite some recent struggles (although it looks like Burns is starting to turn a corner in New Hampshire), both Kevin Pillar (NewHampshire and Buffalo) and Andy Burns (Dunedin and New Hampshire) have been sensational so far this year.  What impresses me the most is how both players have improved their numbers in virtually every major category even as they move up levels.  For Burns, in my original piece, I said he was on the list for his power/speed combination and that he could stand to cut down on his strikeouts.  In Dunedin he upped his slugging percentage, dropped his K% by 10%, and surpassed his stolen base total from 2012  All this in a league that is notoriously unfriendly to hitters.

New Hampshire hasn’t been as kind to Burns, but, as I mentioned above, there seems to be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.  He’s put up a .882 OPS over the last week, backed largely by two of his four hits leaving the yard.  He is seemingly driving the ball more now, so will be interesting to see if his .248 BABIP starts to tick up.  His K% has also creeped back up to one in five.  If he repeats double-A in 2014, that is something the Jays brass will have him work on before looking to get him up to Buffalo.

Speaking to someone who has watched him play, the new third basemen was taking a large stride away from the pitcher in his load.  A mechanical flaw that the hitting instructors are trying to change.  If he has a strong finish to the season, I’m guessing we may start to see Andy on some Jays top prospect lists this off-season.

Pillar may not have any tools that jump out at you, but he simply does everything well.  With the move to AA, he’s improved his BB/K ratio, OBP, and Slugging Percentage.  He’s even chipped in with eleven assists from the outfield.  The kid can do everything.

When I first started this piece, Nick Baligod (Dunedin) was tearing it up in the Florida State League.  I asked ‘are the numbers a mirage?’  Turns out they were.  Still, he’s putting together a decent season, and can be considered a win.  What’s most impressive for me is fact he’s cut his K% almost in half, making for a positive BB/K ratio.

Having played the bulk of his time in right field, you would hope for a bit more power  The Jays lower levels are littered with players whose bats won’t play at the corners but who, defensively, are probably not good enough for center.  Should make for some interesting decisions down the road.

I’ve got no idea how Dominican Summer League stats should be read (I’m guessing with a grain of salt) but the fact that Deiferson Barreto is walking more than he strikes out and is getting on base at a .422 clip is good enough to get him into the win column.  Well done Deiferson!  He did turn eighteen this year though, will need to make the jump Stateside soon.

Stuck in Neutral:

Kevin Patterson (Dunedin/Lansing).  I really don’t know what to make of Patterson.  I only added him to the list after Art Charles was traded to the Phillies, so won’t dwell too long on him.  He’s been demoted this year, which should put him in the ‘loss’ column, but he does hit a bunch of home runs (in the Midwest League at least).  Unfortunately he doesn’t hit much of anything else and strikes out a ton.  Destined to be org filler I think.

Speaking of Charles, he’s having a ho hum season himself.

Splitting time between third and second (moving there when Burns was promoted), Ryan Schimpf is having an odd year in New Hampshire.  He’s only one home run off the Eastern League leader with eighteen, yet he only has seventeen doubles.  His 15% walk rate is very good, yet his 25.4% K rate is equally bad.  It’s a season of contradictions, including his even money 50% stolen base rate.  At twenty-five, I don’t think Schimpf has done enough to warrant sleeper prospect status any longer.

Jun 18, 2013; Dayton, OH, USA; East center fielder Dalton Pompey watches his game winning RBI single in the ninth inning during the Midwest League-All Star Game at Fifth Third Field. East beat West 6-5. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Dalton Pompey (Lansing).  I’ve said this before, I have a predilection for Dalton.  The kid can flat out fly, having stolen thirty-three out of fourty bases.  Talking to people that have watched him this year, they always rave about his times up the line as well.  His nine triples are a product of his quickness.

Unfortunately there are some negatives as well.  He still strikes out too much and you’d maybe like to see a bit more pop.  But at only twenty, and still light for his 6’1″ frame, that may develop over time.

Losses:

The term ‘losses’ may seem a bit harsh, especially when discussing players at the rookie ball level, but both these guys have been demoted this season, so can’t really say they were wins either.

Seth Conner (Lansing/Vancouver) got an odd Lansing assignment right out of the gate.  Speaking to him recently, he was told that he was going to the Lugs to back up Santiago Nessy and play some first base.  However, the situation changed when both Leo Hernandez and Tucker Frawley quit and retired respectively.  That left them short and meant Conner had to act as bullpen catcher as well, limiting his opportunities at first.

When he did get at bats things didn’t go particularly well.  He walked less, struck out more, and didn’t hit for much power.  Since his move to Vancouver, things have gotten even worse, albeit in a small sample size.  Speaking to C’s hitting coach Dave Pano, Conner is having troubles keeping his head behind the ball in his load.  They’re working on getting the whole body moving together.  He did have a big hit in his last game, which may help his confidence somewhat.

Nico Taylor (Vancouver/Bluefield).  Since being demoted from the C’s on the thirteenth of July, Taylor has about the same amount of at bats back in Bluefield as he did in Vancouver.  Everything is better.  Unfortunately, though, he is twenty-three.  With the average age of hitters in the Appalachian League currently at 20.5 and Bluefield at 19.8 he is too old for the level.  Shame, he is one guy that did project as a corner outfielder.  Now he’ll just get left behind.

As we’re already a week into August, I think we may just do one more review of the First Annual Kevin Pillar Sleeper Prospect list at the end of the minor league season.  By then, you would expect that the list’s namesake has made his major league debut.

 

Tags: Toronto Blue Jays Prospects

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