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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Kevin Pillar

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MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Pillar is, at least offensively, in some ways, the most consistent player you will ever see and, in some ways the most inconsistent player you’ll ever see.

Consistent? Career he has a .696 OPS. If you ignore his first season in the MLB, in which he played just 36 games, each season his OPS has been within .017 of that number. He, pretty much, has the exact same season year after year. We know he’s going to have an OPS of about .700 (slightly worse than the average MLB batter).

And yet, inside a season he’s extremely inconsistent. He has hot streaks, where he is a terrific batter (he hit .305/.351/.552 last April) and cold streaks where he just can’t hit a ball at all (he hit .210/.218/.350 last June).

And none of this is news to any of you.

At one time his defense was so good that it didn’t matter that he wasn’t great with the bat. I’m not sure that’s true anymore. His UZR/150 by season:

2015: 7.6

2016: 16.8

2017: 6.3

2018: 2.5

The numbers match what we see with our eyes.

Of course we make a little fun of his walk rate. The last two springs Kevin has come into spring training saying that he was going to be selective, more patient at the plate and both years he’s been much the same hitter as the year before.

Last year he had the worse walk rate of his career, walking 3.3% of the time. He had 18 walks, less than one a week. If he could control the strikezone, I think he would level out the cold streaks some. But, we know it isn’t going to happen. He also had his highest strikeout rate of his career, 18.1%, up from 15.0 the year before. And he had a lot more pop ups (17.7%, FanGraphs tells us that’s the 5th highest among qualified hitters) than in the past

Pillar is one of the few Jays who can steal a base, he had 14 steals, with only 3 caught stealing last year. He’s always been a good percentage stealer. Last year he drew the ire of manager John Gibbons for trying to steal third with two outs on a couple of occasions. He is a veteran now, he shouldn’t be making rookie mistakes like that.

With all that, he’s still player with value. He had a 2.5 bWAR (2.0fWAR) last year.

He’s 30 now. I am worried he decline fairly quickly in his 30s. If his defense drops much more.....well we have a few center field prospects who will be pushing to take his job.

Hall of Fame GM Branch Rickey used to say ‘I’d rather trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.’ I’d be all for trading him, and I’m sure the Blue Jays have shopped him some, but haven’t found a deal they liked, yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if a deal came up before the season starts. He has value, I wouldn’t want him just given away, which is likely why he hasn’t been traded yet. I am hoping that, at some point this year, Anthony Alford will force them into making a move.

PECOTA figures him to hit .259/.308/.406 with 14 home runs in 574 PA and a 1.2 WAR. I’d take the under on the OBP, but might go for the over on the slugging average.

Kevin hasn’t had a great spring, so far, but he did hit a home run yesterday. He’s hitting .212/.278/.424 with 3 walks in 33 at bats.

I do enjoy watching him play the outfield. He goes all out, all the time, doesn’t matter if we are winning or losing or if the game is close or not. I think he would be better off to consider the score a bit before throwing his body into the outfield fence or into the turf.

Poll

Kevin will be

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Traded before the end of spring training.
    (68 votes)
  • 47%
    Traded at the trade deadline.
    (220 votes)
  • 38%
    Will still be a Blue Jay at the end of the season.
    (177 votes)
465 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on Kevin’s home runs is 14 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Over
    (178 votes)
  • 51%
    Under
    (189 votes)
367 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on walk rate is 4.5% I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Over
    (100 votes)
  • 72%
    Under
    (263 votes)
363 votes total Vote Now