Heading into Spring Training there was little doubt as to where Kevin Pillar sat on the Toronto Blue Jays outfielders depth chart. In a best case scenario, the 26-year old would at least make John Gibbons think twice about going into the season with Jose Bautista, Dalton Pompey and newly acquired Michael Saunders as his de facto starting trio.
While a freak accident to Saunders cost the former Seattle Mariner his spring and opened the door for Pillar to make his mark, the native of West Hills, California has more than taken advantage of the opportunity. After delivering during the club’s time in Dunedin, he has arguably elevated his game to another level over the first ten days of the 2015 Major League Baseball season.
Obviously, last night’s jaw dropping robbery of Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Tim Beckham, during the Blue Jays 12-7 victory, left many that follow the game shaking their collective heads at what they had just witnessed. Pillar has essentially been delivering Gold Glove caliber defence since their season opening win over the New York Yankees. Add to that the fact he sits second on the team in hits (11), runs scored (9), has hit safely in ten of eleven games, is currently plugging along at a rather healthy .314 batting clip, and you suddenly have a player who one could very easily make the argument for being Toronto’s early season MVP.
Not too shabby for a guy who was supposed to be nothing more than fourth outfielder/late inning defensive replacement and occasional pinch hitter. While Saunders continues to work his way back from injury, we have now reached the stage where taking Pillar out of the everyday lineup would seem to be inconceivable. Which means Gibbons could be faced with the very real possibility of using a three man rotation in left and center field.
While Bautista and Pompey have started to show signs of life, both are struggling to hit their weight. Some seem to be surprised with Pillar's early season success, but those who are familiar with his career will tell you there is absolutely nothing surprising about what we have seen from him at the plate. Outside of the majors, the former 32nd round pick has hit throughout his collegiate and minor league careers…leaving “The Show” as the only place he had to yet to accomplish the feat.
While he may never turn out to be one of those guys who will take a walk, something he is done on just eight occasions despite having over 250 plate appearances, the kid has proven to be more than capable of holding his own and making whatever necessary adjustments from one plate appearance to the next. Simply put, Pillar is a hitter and we are now starting to see him take that next step in his development...and no one should be surprised by it.
While the change in his attitude has not been lost on many within the organization, it certainly has not gone unnoticed by his manager. Luckily for both sides, no bridges were burned and it looks as though the Toronto Blue Jays are about to be rewarded for their patience with a pretty darn good player, and something tells me Kevin Pillar could not be happier.