Sep 27, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Kevin Pillar (22) catches a fly ball from Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Kelly Johnson (not pictured) in the second inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
In a winter where we’re all watching the transaction tickers go by, waiting for the Toronto Blue Jays to fire their first salvo of the Hot Stove season, it can sometime be easy to overlook a small, seemingly inconsequential news item. For instance, did anyone see the news that Blue Jays outfield prospect Kevin Pillar is slated to join Escogido of the Dominican Winter League?
Pillar will join a squad that already features three other Blue Jays players in pitchers Sean Nolin and Mickey Storey, and outfielder Carlos Ramirez. However, the question begging to be asked is, “why Pillar is heading to winter ball?” We are talking about a player that received quite a bit of playing time this past season, totalling 655 plate appearances across three levels, including the Major Leagues in 2013.
Pillar did struggle a bit in his first taste of action at the big league level, hitting just .206 with a .583 OPS, 3 home runs, and 13 RBI for the Blue Jays after a mid-August promotion. Perhaps the Blue Jays are simply looking for him to make some adjustments and the Dominican League is a great place to get in some work prior to Spring Training. Perhaps that will allow him to make the jump next season, as he’s wore out Minor League pitching to the tune of .307/.353/.814 last season.
Or maybe there is a little bit more to see here.
Is it coincidental that both Nolin and Pillar would be seeing action in the Dominican this winter after full workloads during the regular season? Perhaps, and I’ll admit I’m reading into this simply for the sake of conjecture, the Blue Jays have sent them both to the Caribbean in order to showcase the two talented players as possible trade bait.
Nolin is viewed by many as the most likely Blue Jays pitching prospect to be shopped this winter, so is it such a stretch to see Pillar in a similar regard? He faces the same issues, with both Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra (out of options) ahead of him on the depth chart, not to mention a fully stocked outfield already featuring Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, and Melky Cabrera.
Pillar’s stock rose tremendously with his performance last season and he could be deemed a solid, expendable piece to be included in any trade for needed pitching (ahem..Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs could use some outfield help). Then again, so could either Gose or Sierra for that matter, but neither of them has been sent to get extra reps in this winter.
Personally, I love what Pillar could bring to the Jays, as you don’t find that kind of energy and drive everywhere. In a lot of regards, he’s the type of gritty, all-business ballplayer that the Blue Jays lack. However, I also recognize that you have to make sacrifices somewhere in order to get where you need to be, and quite frankly, Pillar’s ceiling being what it is, he could be deemed an acceptable sacrifice.
Anyway, maybe I’m just fishing a bit here (Shark reference intended). Or am I?