We’re having a bit of a run on outfielders, as after looking at Dwight Smith Jr. at number 19 and Jacob Anderson at 18, we have yet another here in the 17 spot. Unlike the other two, however, this prospect isn’t much of a project and he could be wearing the Blue Jays colors sooner rather than later.
Pillar batting for the Dunedin Blue Jays (Image courtesy battersbox.ca)
Name: Kevin Pillar
Position: Corner Outfield
Date of Birth: 01/04/1989 (24)
Acquired: Selected in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft (Bonus undisclosed)
High School: Chaminade College Prep (Creve Coeur, Missouri)
College: Cal St. Dominguez Hills
Height/Weight: 6’0”/200 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 top 30 prospects
- 2012 Midwest League Most Valuable Player
- 2012 Midwest League Mid-Season and Post-Season All Star
- 2012 Midwest League Player-of-the-Week (5/14)
- 2011 Appalachian League Post-Season All Star
2012 Statistics and Analysis
499 AB, .323/.374/.439 (.813 OPS), 28 2B, 6 3B, 6 HR, 91 RBI, 51 SB, 40/70 BB/K
(AFL) 62 AB, .371/.409/.435 (.845 OPS), 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 8 SB, 3/13 BB/K
Kevin Pillar played at three different levels during the 2012 season, opening the year with Single-A Lansing, receiving a mid-season promotion to High-A Dunedin, and, after a month layoff, concluding the year with the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League. The third jump was a substantial one, as most consider the AFL to be Triple-A/Double-A hybrid. Pillar raked on every team he played, hitting .322 with Lansing, .323 with Dunedin, and .371 with Salt River. The plate discipline didn’t quite follow suit, however, as his walk rate dropped from 9.3% with the Lugnuts to 2.8% with the D-Jays. Pillar’s power numbers were okay, but it would be a stretch to call them even average for a player primarily limited to the outfield corners. The strong performance came on the heels of a .347/.377/.534 short season debut in 2011, so Pillar is quickly compiling an impressive career line.
Video (via MLBProspectPortal.com)
Pillar has a simple stance with a wide base and his weight on his back foot. He makes a smooth weight transfer from the load position to his follow through, and while his home run potential is limited by his lack of physical projection, he still makes solid contact with a line drive oriented swing. He’s disciplined at the plate, as he’ll wait out his pitch, and won’t cheat himself with a half hearted swing when it arrives.
While the stolen base numbers are incredibly flashy, in reality, Pillar’s speed is more average than elite. He gets his stolen bases by using his smarts and experience in the game, reading pitchers and getting quick jumps. In Double-A, Triple-A, and especially the majors where pitchers have learned how to vary their timing and hold runners, Pillar might struggle to steal 20 bases over the course of a full season. His best tool is his bat, which has solid-average potential because of the traits I described in the swing mechanics section above. His age has given him an advantage over lesser competition, but even against pitchers on his level he should be able to sustain a .280+ batting average with his abilities. At 24 years of age and physically mature, there’s not much projection left in the power department. The tool is below average, as Pillar may struggle to reach double digit home runs even if given a full season’s worth of at-bats.
The package would look very good in center field, but unfortunately Pillar doesn’t have the defensive capabilities to remain there full-time in the upper tiers of professional baseball. On an outfield corner, the toolset becomes more solid than impressive. His arm can handle right field, but he doesn’t have the power that teams like to see out of that position. If he sticks as a full time player it almost has to be in left field, and even then I’m not sure a highly competitive, playoff-caliber team would want someone like Pillar receiving 600-700 plate appearances. I’ve seen a Reed Johnson comp for Pillar, and I think it’s extremely fitting; he could play full time and be league average on a mediocre team, but the better teams will view him as a strong option off the bench as a fourth outfielder.
The perfect world projection for Kevin Pillar would be a second division starter in left field, but he may be more valuable as a dynamic fourth outfielder on a competitive ball club.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
Pillar played in just 42 games with Dunedin in 2012, but his age (24) and experience in the Arizona Fall League all but guarantees he’ll receive a Double-A New Hampshire assignment out of spring training. He may even find himself in the big league camp for a few weeks should the club offer him a spot as a non-roster invitee (he’s not on the 40 man). Once he gets started, there’s little doubt he’ll eventually find his way to Triple-A Buffalo, where he should conclude the minor league season. September could be an interesting month for Pillar, as if he shows well during the season, he could find himself on the big league roster for the final month. His versatility would provide a lot of value for Toronto off the bench, particularly if the club is in a late season push for the playoffs. Pillar’s ETA is in the not-so-distant future, and unlike most prospects, his risk factor is fairly low.