Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays Player of the Week: Kevin Pillar

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May 6, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) hits a three run home run during the eighth inning in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) hits a three run home run during the eighth inning in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Blue Jays outfielder has improved his average to .301 this week

Kevin Pillar’s hitter profile tends to result in both prolonged slumps and extended hot streaks, but when he’s on, seeing the ball well, and has his timing down, he can be fun to watch. Over the last week, Pillar has been on one of these hot streaks and that made him the easy selection for this week’s PoW.

He’s a hitter who has great hands and hand-eye coordination, which often makes up for his lack of sound mechanics, and that allows him to consistently barrel up pitches. However, when his timing is lacking, his poor plate discipline gets exposed and he can struggle at the plate. Every hitter goes through slumps, but when that hitter has a plate discipline flaw like Pillar’s, it becomes very difficult to put good at bats together during a rough patch.

But like I said, his hitter profile that contains elite hands and contact ability will lead to hot streaks that make him an entertaining and productive hitter due to his ability to consistently hit balls hard.

Over the last week, Pillar slashed .407/.448/.741/1.189 through 27 at-bats. He only walked one time, but consistently drove the ball as seven of his 11 hits went for extra bases. He hit a massive three-run home run against the Dodgers in the first game of that three-game set, and drove in six RBI’s in seven games.

His run this week bumped his OPS from .724 to .793, and his season wRC+ sits at a very strong 122. That would be a significant improvement on his 2015 total of 93, and combined with his elite defence, he would end up being one of the most valuable players in the game. His 1.6 fWAR at this point of the year has him tied for 12th in the entire league with Kris Bryant, Aledmys Diaz, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and Xander Bogaerts. That’s some pretty talented company.

However, that wRC+ is likely to end up closer to the league average mark of 100, but even then, a 100 wRC+ to go along with his defence would give him an fWAR total approaching 5.

His monthly wRC+ totals in 2015 went: 87, 32, 149, 94, 62, 137. So, while the year end totals are going to be solid, and his defence is likely to never waver from excellent, you’ll have to put up with cold spells that are inevitably going to be mixed in with his hot streaks.

With more experience and the never-ending learning process that takes place for major league hitters, the hope is that Pillar would be able to limit both the length and severity of his slumps. He started the year in one of those slumps, but he adjusted quickly and abruptly put an end to it before catching fire this week.

That’s an excellent sign for Pillar and the Jays, and it will be important to monitor how he makes adjustments during times of struggle, and how long those slumps last. If he can continue to make steady improvements at the dish, you can be looking at a player who sits near the top of WAR leaderboards beside players you wouldn’t think he could compete with.

This week was a fantastic example of the type of hitter Pillar can be when he gets on a roll, and you should enjoy while it lasts. On top of the offence, he makes ridiculous catches that litter highlight reels time after time. He ignited a sleeping offence, played fantastic defence, led the Jays to a 4-3 week, and he is more than deserving of this week’s PoW.

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