Kevin Pillar vs. Anthony Gose: Competition worth watching within the Toronto Blue Jays organization


Aug 16, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Anthony Gose (8) hits a RBI single during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays are trailing the Boston Red Sox by 15 games in the American League East. A season that started with so much hope continues to spiral further and further down the porcelain.

But last place isn’t all that bad, especially if you like prospects. With outfielders Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera both nursing injuries on the disabled list, Alex Anthopoulos has treated us with a potential glimpse of the future by calling up both Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose.

I’ve been on the Pillar bandwagon for some time now and predicted that he would be called up before Gose back on July 1st. Pillar was putting up big numbers immediately after he was promoted from Double-A New Hampshire, while Gose was struggling in the International League in comparison to his numbers last year a member of the former Jays’ affiliate Las Vegas 51s in the much more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Pillar only beat Gose to Toronto by two days and they appeared together in the Blue Jays’ outfield last night for the first time at the MLB level. Batting eighth and ninth respectively, I was interested to see which player would break into the hit column first. Gose stepped up to the challenge and knocked in a RBI single in sixth to score Josh Thole from third base. Pillar failed to cash Thole in the batter before by grounding out to the shortstop.

Aug 15, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Kevin Pillar (22) throws his bat after striking out in the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre. Toronto defeated Boston 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY SportsPillar has had a rather rude (yet brief) introduction to the Bigs, failing to get a hit his first three games going 0 for 11 including a sacrifice bunt in last night’s game. I don’t want to ring any alarm bells as it would be foolish to read into a three-game stretch by any player, let alone one who was playing Single-A baseball at this time last year, but Pillar doesn’t exactly stand for plate discipline. He’s chased at 45% of pitches outside of the zone his first three games, which makes J.P. Arencibia‘s chase rate of 37.9% almost pedestrian in comparison (okay, not really), and has struck out in four of his eleven at bats.

Gose, who made his 70th appearance for the Blue Jays last night, hasn’t shared Pillar’s struggles at the top-level in his own brief sample size this season. Gose is batting .296/.367/.370 this year in Toronto and has played better overall there than for most of the season in Triple-A Buffalo. Gose lost some gloss by repeating Triple-A this year but he only turned 23 last week and I almost want to give him a break for a seemingly inability to hit based on the fact he’s been young for almost every level he’s played at, and is a year and a half younger than Pillar. Gose batted only .239/.316/.336 for Buffalo and has a miserable 27 for 49 (55.1%) success rate stealing bases in 2013.

To the eye of an outsider, the two players seem to have almost antagonistic qualities. Pillar has been the ultimate feel-good story, a 32nd round draft pick who even Anthopoulos said was never expected to make it to the Bigs. He’s known as a hard-working player that manages to get the most out of his abilities and has shown a general knack for hitting. He’s also made a couple of beauty plays in the outfield with both his arm and glove.

Gose, on the other hand, was a 2nd round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. He’s shown great tools with plus speed and good defensive ability but has never really developed into the hitter that Blue Jays fans had hoped. He’s one of those guys we drool over and say “if only he could learn how to hit, he would be unstoppable!” But Gose hasn’t helped his case with the fan base or management after it was rumored earlier this year that he was upset after being sent down after his productive stint in Toronto earlier this season. He admitted it’s been a “frustrating” year after last night’s game, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

The competition between Pillar and Gose is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Once Pillar breaks into the hit column look out – they tend to come in bunches with him. And Gose seems to have a renewed energy to play baseball under the bright lights of MLB. Who says your team needs a winning record to enjoy watching baseball in August and September?

H/T FanGraphs, Baseball Reference for stats.