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Kevin Pillar: Just a Fourth Outfielder?

Hello fellow downtrodden and long suffering Blue Jays fans. I've recently been asked to contribute occasionally to Bluebird Banter. Now for those of you who may know me from my twitter account @StivBators, you'll know that I mainly focus/tweet about Blue Jays prospects.


I try to listen to and watch as many minor league Blue Jays games as I can, albeit with a focus on the games that have the top prospects in them. I also like to drop a nugget or two on Blue Jays prospects from the many publications I subscribe to such as Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America and ESPN. Mixed in with this I'll add my entirely non expert thoughts, observations and opinions from what I hear and see in those games.  I am no scout nor do I profess to know anything more than any other avid fan, so I fully encourage debate and counter opinions to anything I write, you could even agree occasionally if you'd like.

OK enough with the preamble, I thought my first post would be on the flurry of roster moves with the Jays today, with a focus on Pillar obviously and perhaps spark a debate on Pillar vs Gose.  I've watched almost every game Pillar's been in since his call up to the Bisons, minus one hazy weekend in Vegas that I don't really recall.  Before I delve into my own thoughts here's what the prospect writers over at Baseball Prospectus have been saying about Pillar for most of this year:

August 11th"not the toolsiest of players; he profiles best as a good fourth outfielder."

July 19th "fourth outfield floor and could carve out a career as a solid second-division guy."

I could go on with this but you get the idea, they think he's a scrappy 4th OF type (Hello Reed Johnson).  They do however give him a future projection of a 6+ for the hit tool, which could be nice, especially after watching Bonifacio all year.

To further the point this was from Baseball America written on August 8th about Pillar:

"A hitting machine in college, Pillar set a Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak as a junior and finished his career at Dominguez Hills as the school's all-time batting leader with a .367 average."

Now what I've noticed after watching Pillar since his call up is at times, especially when he was first called up was his Vlad like ability to barrel up a ball well out of the strike zone, but I also noticed he's not much for working the count, he's up swinging. This was something that was also mentioned in the in detailed scouting report at Baseball Prospectus "limited ability/desire to work counts."

I think this caught up to Pillar in AAA the last few weeks as he has been struggling, and I've seen some truly terrible swings on pitches well out of the zone in that time.

Now he appeared to be coming around as of late, so hopefully he was making the necessary adjustments. I think this will be the similar path we see in Toronto, he'll come out of the gate fast and then struggle as he gets fewer pitches in the zone, time will tell if he can make the adjustments.

Calling up Pillar has sparked an interesting debate on twitter over why Gose wasn't the one. As Zack Mortimer from Baseball Prospectus tweeted:

Zach Mortimer ‏@ZachMort1h

"For all the lovely #bluejays fans: pillar has a better hit tool than gose, but that is the only tool that is better."

A quick look at the numbers tells you Gose has had a rough year though .239/.312/.337.  In the last several weeks Gose has been on a tear, I won't post his slash line from that time to avoid the "arbitrary end point" and "small sample size" argument, but he's been much better, and he's 9 for his last 9 stolen base attempts as well, an area he's struggled with all year. His strikeout rate has still been quite high over this time mind you.

Recently it's been suggested that a motivational speech from Pinball Clemons has helped Gose out (you'd think making the majors would be motivation enough), as it's been reported this year that Gose has had a poor attitude and was upset over his demotion from the Jays. I've heard Bisons manager Marty Brown on broadcasts mention that he's not been pleased with Gose's attitude.

Well things may have changed as this is what Marty Brown had to say last night when asked about who he thinks should get the call if Rasmus was put on the DL:

Bisons Broadcast: Marty this may not be the only roster move that the Bisons are faced with because Colby Rasmus has a little bit of an oblique issue at the big league level.

You've got three worthy outfielders, two guys that already have big league experience and maybe one knocking at the door, would you recommend one over any of the other three?

Marty Brown: Well you know it's obviously not my decision, I can only give a report on each guy and give all the information to Alex and let Alex make that call.

I know how I've seen these guys play over the course of the last couple weeks. We're seeing a lot more consistent Gose, you know Kevin's obviously had his struggles and is working through that, Mo is just coming off the injury earlier and hasn't really gotten back into the swing of things.

Right now in my mind it would probably have to be Anthony but I don't make that decision.

It does now sound like Gose may be up after today's game so we'll get to see the two of them in action and in a year that has been pretty depressing it's at least something to watch.