Kevin Pillar: fading to irrelevance


Kevin Pillar has had enough. No that’s not right; the Toronto Blue Jays have had enough of Kevin Pillar. That’s better.

Now don’t get me wrong, Pillar has made some unforgetable plays in the field. All you have to do is type his name in on Youtube and you’ll drum up plays like this one that will forever be remembered in digital history.

The problem with Pillar is that when you do Google, Youtube or whatever else his name, the only results you retrieve are just that: spectacular, mind-blowing, jaw dropping plays in the field but lack any substantive traction when it comes to his ability to produce offensively at the major league level.

Through 49 games played and 195 plate appearances–his most in a Blue Jays uniform– Pillar has hit to the unpleasant tune of a .217/.256/.299 slash with one home run to his name and a well below average wRC+ of 50. Just to put that in perspective, that 50 wRC+ would put him last among outfielders across the majors.

The argument could certainly be made that Pillar has to remain in the outfield for lack of a better alternative option. The candidates include new-born utility man  Danny Valencia, Ezequiel Carrera and Chris Colabello, for now. That list is far from being the type to wet anyone’s palate.

But within it lie potentially better options. The bulk of Pillar’s playing time this season has been in centre field after prospect Dalton Pompey failed in his rookie trial and was demoted only weeks into the season. Thirty-two of Pillars 49 games played have come in centre field.

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If the Jays were to replace him in centre, the most viable option, currently, would be Carrera. Over the course of his career, Carrera has spent the majority of his playing time in centre field where he has been close to an average defender with a +1 DRS (defensive runs saved) for his career.

Admittedly, it’s not Pillar’s +7 DRS, but it still wouldn’t cost you games in the short term while waiting for Michael Saunders to return to action (whenever that is). To add to that, Carrera is a much better fit at the plate both this year and throughout his career. Thus far, Carrera’s slash is an average .269/.339/.327 with a much higher wRC+ of 88. Of course, this is in a much smaller sample size of only 61 plate appearances so it should be taken with a grain of salt.

With that said, these numbers are right where you would expect given his similarly looking career slash of .255/.309/.339. Really, Carrera is a much more experienced and safe option for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Of course, the Jays could continue to ride out Pillar in hopes of him improving his .259 BABIP but with a swing rate eclipsing the famed 2014 prospect Javier Baez, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Where does Pillar go from here if not in the Jays outfield? It’s not very clear. To this point, he’s excelled at the minor league level, especially Triple-A Buffalo where he’s hovered around .300 in two different seasons.

If he’s looking to excel offensively at the major league level however, he needs to improve his approach by taking more pitches and swinging at less pitches outside the strike zone. Currently he is swinging at 46 per cent of pitches outside the zone, a far cry from the MLB chase rate of 30 per cent.

Maybe the majors aren’t for him. Maybe he’s just another quad-A player in the Jays system. But maybe, just maybe, he can figure this all out and become a solidified everyday player in the Blue Jays lineup.