Toronto Blue Jays News

The top 10 Toronto Blue Jays Players of the 2010’s

Bevan Hamilton
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 2: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays tosses his bat aside as he lines out in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Texas Rangers on May 2, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 2: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays tosses his bat aside as he lines out in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Texas Rangers on May 2, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Sep 4, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) attempts to catch the ball during the seventh inning against Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

7. Kevin Pillar: 2013-2019

Full disclosure, I debated Pillar at being #7 or #6 for quite a while before ultimately leaving PIllar at seventh overall. Quality over quantity, despite the defensive metrics, as those aren’t the only factor here.

Pillar was homegrown by the Blue Jays, drafted in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft out of California State University, surely one of the best success stories that late in the draft for Toronto. After three strong seasons in the minors, Pillar was called up in late 2013 and then again in 2014 and didn’t leave until April 2019 when he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Juan De Paula, Alen Hanson, and Derek Law. None of the return pieces are still with the Blue Jays organization.

Pillar, of course, will always be remembered as one of the best defensive outfielders in Blue Jays history. At least, he perhaps made the most highlight-reel catches that energized a fanbase, perhaps enough to overlook other flaws in his game. The 2017 catch was certainly one of a kind and what Pillar himself described that “put him on the map as not just an average outfielder.”

In the outfield, it seemed like no one was better. Pillar brought his greatest value to the Blue Jays over his five plus seasons in centre field. He consistently ranked in the top of nearly every defensive category year after year. In 2015, the California native finished 9th in overall WAR at 5.2 The fact that he never won a Gold Glove is simply absurd. Perhaps if Kevin Kiermaier wasn’t roaming Tampa Bay’s outfield, he would have, but even so, it seems crazy having watched him day in and day out. There’s something to be said watching balls get hit to the gap or the wall and feeling confident it will be hauled in by our Superman. Even today, he has the sixth-most putouts by active centre fielders.

Offensively, Pillar certainly had some pop in his bat and was a streaky hitter, evident by the fact that wouldn’t get on base consistently. He also had decent speed on the bases, swiping 69 in his Toronto tenure to a tune of a career 74.1 success rate. Only Rajai Davis stole more, and that’s basically all he did. Still, Pillar surprised a lot of people with what he brought to the team and his ability to play well above his career projections. According to Fangraphs, Pillar’s 10.1 WAR in his time as a Blue Jay was fifth-best of the decade. Not bad for a guy scouts relegated as a corner outfielder at best.

Pillar went on to post perhaps his best statistical year with the Giants in 2019, hitting career highs in homeruns (21), RBI (88), slugging percentage (.432) and OPS (.719). Pillar had a solid 2021 with the New York Mets last year, reunited with former teammate Marcus Stroman, but is now a free agent.

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