Kevin Pillar has started the season on a torrid pace with the bat, adding to his infamous skills with the glove.
As bad as it’s been for the Toronto Blue Jays so far this season, it hasn’t been a struggle for everyone, at least individiually. Kevin Pillar for example, is having arguably the greatest stretch of his MLB career through the first 23 games of the season.
Thus far, Pillar is hitting .326 through his first 95 at bats, as he raised his average several more points after collecting 4 hits on Friday, and reaching base 5 times from the leadoff spot in the order. Against the Rays, Pillar collected a single, two doubles, a home run and a walk, for yet another great night for the 28 year old.
We were all prepared to for Pillar to bring a ton of value to the field, as it’s become a regular thing for him since becoming an MLB starter. He’s just never been able to put together numbers like this on offence, instead relying on his gold glove calibre defence to secure his spot in the lineup.
And what a glove he’s displayed, as he earned 2.7 WAR on defence in 2015, and 2.5 in 2016, among the best in the league from centerfielders. In fact, if it weren’t for the presence of Kevin Kiermaier in Tampa Bay, Pillar likely has two gold gloves on his mantle.
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In 2015, Pillar had a decent season at the plate, finishing with a slash line of .278/.314/.399, with 12 home runs and 25 stolen bases. He took a bit of a step back in 2016, but he also battled injuries throughout most of the season, possibly contributing to his struggles at the plate at times. His 2015 season was good for 2.5 WAR on offence, giving him a total of 5.2, and placing him 31st in the MLB, just behind Nelson Cruz and Miguel Cabrera. Not bad company at all.
As decent as Pillar’s numbers look on paper from 2015, they were somewhat deceiving as well. His batting average was more than fine, but he struck out far too much, leaving his OBP at just .314 which left him at the bottom of a powerful offensive lineup.
Now? Pillar has taken a significant step forward and has been arguably the best player on the Blue Jays through their first two dozen games. The thing is, if he can continue to show this type of improvement at the plate, Pillar likely moves into another class of MLB player. In fact, “Superman” has already earned 0.95 oWAR thus far, rapidly approaching the 1.2 he earned in 2016 on the offensive side.
If you were to take Pillar’s 5.2 WAR from 2015 and add just one Win Above Replacement, Pillar would jump from #31 on last year’s list, all the way up to #16, just ahead of Corey Seager and Carlos Correa. What does that mean? Now we’re talking about the most valuable players in all of baseball. Adding a point on WAR is easier said than done, but Pillar is on his way to do that and more with his production thus far.
Does this mean I’m suggesting Pillar could become an MVP contender? Not exactly, but a look at the old school stats shows that he’s not that far off from being considered at that level. If he can continue to hit even close to the way he has thus far, and maintain his position as the leadoff hitter, Pillar is setting himself up for a very secure future.
Occasionally, stars on the Toronto Blue Jays fly under the radar a little bit (minus the last two playoff appearance years), but with the way Pillar has performed thus far, it won’t be long before the entire league takes notice.