Jays From the Couch brings you the Toronto Blue Jays 2016 Highlights & Lowlights for outfielder, Kevin Pillar.
Toronto’s Kevin Pillar came into the 2016 with expectations that he would take over the reigns of the all important lead-off spot for the Blue Jays. Never being one to lack self confidence he declared himself to be one of the better hitters on the team. Gibbons bought into the madness during Spring Training, and for three weeks during the regular season before his low on-base percentage, and typically poor plate approach, demanded a change. Pillar did maintain his excellent level of play on the defensive side, despite his offensive goals stalling this season.
Among his season highlights, Pillar, was nominated for the Gold Glove Award for the second straight season. After finishing second behind Tampa’s Kevin Kiermaier last season, he is hoping to grab the award in 2016. This season saw Pillar accumulate 21 defensive runs saved (DRS) over his 1293 IP in centerfield, which was good for 2nd overall in the American League.
Even more impressive was his increased UZR/150 rating of 26.3 which was far superior to his UZR/150 rating of 15.4 in 2015. Last year’s total was enough to see him awarded the Wilson Defensive Player Award, so his improvement could help him land the Gold Glove this season.
Here are some his best defensive highlights of the season:
Pillar was also nominated for this years Roberto Clemente Award. The award is designed to recognize a player for “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
His contributions to amateur baseball, education and health initiatives, along with visits with children in hospitals across Canada helped get him gain recognition across the league. He is also involved with MLB’s Action Team.
Pillar would hit the disabled list for the first time during his young career in 2016. After injuring his thumb sliding into second in Kansas City, he was placed on the 15-Day DL from August 7-22. Ultimately, he would end up having surgery to repair a torn ligament after the season. He is expected to fine for Spring Training, however.
The California native struggled with the bat this season, hitting .261/.292/.385 until Aug 7th when he hit the DL. Strangely enough he hit .283/.338/.346 after returning, despite playing with special protection on his right thumb. Perhaps the lessons learned during the last 39 games will help him going forward into 2017 and beyond.
With his injured thumb, Pillar failed to follow up on his stellar .286/.333/.476 performance during the 2015 postseason. After hitting .125 (2 for 16) between the Wild Card game and ALDS, he would slip to .063 (1 for 16) during the five games of the ALCS. In all he would hit a paltry .094/.143/.219 with 2 XBH through nine games. His deep slump could hardly be considered a major reason for Toronto’s postseason exodus, though it certainly didn’t help.
Barring any shocking trades, Pillar, looks to be a stalwart in centerfield for the Blue Jays. With his defensive prowess there is some comfort to be had knowing he will be patrolling a premium defensive spot for several years ahead. The main concern with ‘Superman’, as always, is his ability to perform above replacement level at the plate. He does have the raw tools available to be that type of of player; however, his pitch recognition does leave little to be desired. Here’s to hoping he can get some containment on his team leading O-Swing% going forward. But, something tells me his free swinging ways will continue to be a source of both entertainment and sorrow, all wrapped in one.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III-(flickr) UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.