Prospect Kevin Pillar putting up big numbers in Buffalo


Mar 13, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates mascot Parrot taunts Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar during the seventh inning of a spring training game at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The name Kevin Pillar is not a new one for many of our savvy Jays Journal readers. If you’ve been keeping up with the Minor League Report (or happened to catch Kyle Matte’s Toronto Blue Jays top prospect list earlier in the year) you’ve already been enlightened to the fact that Pillar is no longer a sleeper prospect.

Pillar has flat-out hit at every level he’s played at so far. This season he started in Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He produced for the ‘Cats at a high level in 71 games, highlighted by a triple-slash of .313/.364/.441 before earning a promotion to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on June 21.

Since arriving in Western New York, Pillar has both scouts and fans buzzing with excitement. He’s appeared in 10 games and holds an even better triple-slash of .395/.435/.721 (for an insane 1.156 OPS). He has more doubles (8) than singles (7). Pillar’s wRC+ is at 213 and wOBA is off the charts at .501. He hasn’t had enough plate appearances to make ISO worthwhile but it’s still interesting to note he’s carrying a ridiculous .326 – to keep that in perspective, Miguel Cabrera‘s ISO is .307 this year for the Detroit Tigers. Pillar’s strikeout rate has crept up to 13% in Triple-A compared to 9.5 in Double-A but it appears he’s making improved contact overall compared to his 2012 numbers. Obviously it’s another SSS (small sample size) situation, plus the fact he’s been aided by a .429 BABIP that should eventually come back down to Earth, but it would be fair to say that Pillar has been simply lights out.

So could we see Kevin Pillar in uniform for the Toronto Blue Jays this year?

Until recently, if needed the Jays would most likely have gone with Anthony Gose. Gose did hit well during his brief stint in the majors this year, represented by his triple-slash of .304/.385/.391 in 26 plate appearances. But his numbers this year in Buffalo (over a much larger sample size) have left much to be desired. Gose hasn’t hit the ball well and his average sits at only .221. Despite his plus speed, Gose has only 10 doubles in 235 plate appearances, which our own Charlie Caskey points out on Twitter isn’t a very impressive stat.

Gose does appear to have the advantage defensively as he provides more flexibility and with an ability to play a solid centerfield, while Pillar would most likely be best suited as a corner outfielder at the big league level. But at least in my opinion it appears that Pillar may be a good enough hitter to make up for any defensive limitations.

There’s also the case against rushing Pillar into the majors too early, as I might be slightly getting ahead of myself since he’s only played ten Triple-A games and 81 games above high-A level altogether. But he’s proven to the ability to handle pitching at every level so far so it would be interesting to see how he would fare against the game’s best.

Kyle went into a lot more detail previously than I did here, so if you didn’t earlier I would strongly recommend to read his piece as he gives you a more detailed scouting report of Pillar, including projections of what could be destined of Pillar’s major league career

I’m definitely no expert in projecting if a player’s Triple-A numbers will translate in the big leagues, but so far there hasn’t been much slowing down Kevin Pillar. If he keeps up this pace, Toronto Blue Jays fans shouldn’t be surprised if we hear his name called come September when rosters open up.

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.