In the ten days leading up to the season opener against the Yankees, your friends at BJN will be dropping a #take a day to get you pumped up for the season! Day three: Kevin Pillar
This is likely a take that won’t be received well by a certain portion of the fanbase, but in 2018, Superman will lose his cape at some point. The Blue Jays staying consistent enough to actually be in a pennant race this season is a take itself, and we’ll address it another day, but I’m going to argue that when it happens, Kevin Pillar won’t be the full-time center fielder.
I’m not sure if it’ll be Alford, Pompey, Smith, or Grichuk, but one of those guys will play well enough to usurp Pillar in CF.
Pillar, now 29, is just a one-trick pony. The one trick he has is pretty good, though. His defensive runs saved in center field is usually near the top of the league for his position. Even though he took a step back defensively last year, his 15 Defensive Runs Saved – which was 22 in 2015 and 21 in 2016 – ranked third among all CF with at least 800 innings played, behind 2017 Gold Glove winner Byron Buxton and perennial vacuum and two-time Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier.
Getting good defense from a premium position is important, and it’s why nobody (at least in the mainstream) really questions Pillar’s job status that much. But what if things stay the same in 2018? On the surface, it didn’t look like the worst year for him. His defensive production slipped a little, but looking at his 85 wRC+, he gave you the same amount of production at the plate right?
Remember when Pillar was suspended for saying that really stupid thing? At that point, his new plate approach was working and he was hitting .305/.357/.497, with a walk rate of 7.1%. The sky looked like the limit at that point for him. After that, his wRC+ was 68. Not from that point until the all star game or any other arbitrary end point, it was until the end of the year. That’s a nice 420 at bats and a lower wRC+ than another defense-first, no-bat Blue Jay in Ryan Goins, whose nice 69 wRC+ over 418 at bats earned him a non-tender.
Kevin Pillar has had a terrific spring, slashing .477/.500/.667 over 36 at bats, but if his spring success doesn’t translate to prolonged success in the regular season, we’re back to this conversation. At this point, if Alford or Pompey could stay healthy and play well in Buffalo, Pillar could be hearing footsteps. Or, it could happen if Teoscar Hernandez – who already has major league power and just needs to limit his strikeouts – could play well into a RF job, pushing Grichuk over to center.
Is this really the hottest take? I don’t know, but the Blue Jays have a whole lot of outfield options, and despite the false job security fans seem to think he has, it won’t take much to push him out of that spot in center field.