The Blue Jays’ lineup has plenty of firepower, so a player like Kevin Pillar can get lost on the scouting report pretty quickly. The 4th year veteran looks to change that in 2017.
We’re now in the final week before Opening Day, which means most teams are starting to employ a lineup that looks pretty similar to the one they’ll use for regular season action. Now that most of the Blue Jays are healthy, their lineup is starting to look a little more like it’s forecasted.
Manager John Gibbons has been able to play with the lineup card a lot this spring, as most managers are want to do, and he’s come up with some interesting combinations, perhaps testing the waters on a few players for future reference in the regular season.
On Tuesday afternoon, the lineup card looked like this:
Thank you to @GideonTurk for two things, first, posting the lineup, and secondly, for making a relevant point about Kevin Pillar. The guy has been raking this spring, and may be one of the best #9 hitters in baseball right now.
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For the spring, Pillar is 17-50, good for a .340/.411/.500 slash line, with 6 doubles and a triple. He hasn’t hit a home run yet, but that really isn’t Pillar’s game, at least not at this stage of his career. Prior to most of the regular’s getting into spring lineups, Pillar’s name was often found at the top of the lineup, a position the Blue Jays tried him in last year.
I’m not saying that Pillar should be the leadoff hitter in 2017, but he’s making a case for himself as an option if the need arises. I’m aware that spring stats are a dangerous thing to put too much weight on, but Pillar has looked good this spring, swinging a confident bat and often finding himself as a catalyst for a run-scoring inning for the Jays.
Out of all of the expected regulars, only Jose Bautista has a better batting average, and his stats are over the course of just 23 at bats. Pillar has also displayed a bit of his characteristically great defence in centre field as well, where his greatest value to the club lies.
He doesn’t have to be an All-Star on offence to bring value, as his 5.2 WAR in 2015 and 3.4 last season would attest. But imagine if he could put all together on offence? Suddenly, we’re not just talking about just one of the best defensive centre-fielders in baseball, now we’re talking about one of the most valuable players, period.
I don’t think it’s fair to expect that sort of thing from Pillar yet, but I do expect him to take some steps forward in 2017, and surprise a lot of people in the process. I’m not sure if the Blue Jays have explored any kind of extension talks with “Superman” yet, but I’m on the side of extending him early, before he proves just how good he really is.