Athletic Pillar an outfield option in Toronto
Bernie Pleskoff's scouting report on Blue Jays late-round Draft pick
Toronto Blue Jays outfield prospect Kevin Pillar is an exceptional athlete.
Growing up in California, the right-handed-hitting Pillar played the outfield in baseball, point guard in basketball and on both sides of the ball in football for Chaminade College Prep High School. And he was a success at each.
Pillar hit .400 for his high school career, finishing his senior season with a .463 average. He followed his high school baseball coach to Division II Cal State University-Dominguez Hills in Carson, Calif., where he put together a 54-game hitting streak his junior year.
The Blue Jays chose Pillar with their 32nd-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He has progressed so well that he is now ranked No. 16 on the Blue Jays' Top 20 Prospects list.
Pillar hit .347 in his professional debut with Bluefield in the Appalachian League in 2011. Of his 82 hits, he had seven home runs, three triples and 17 doubles.
Pillar has shown so much that he has moved very quickly through the Blue Jays' system. In parts of only three seasons, he has a career Minor League batting average of .321.
In 2012, Pillar hit .323, playing 42 games and going to the plate 178 times for Class A Advanced Dunedin. Prior to arriving at Dunedin, he hit .322 playing for Class A Lansing in the Midwest League. Pillar's consistency was remarkable. Among his 161 hits were 28 doubles, six triples and six home runs. Pillar was named the 2012 Midwest League's Most Valuable Player.
My first look at Pillar came in the 2012 Arizona Fall League, where he played twice a week on the taxi squad for Salt River. He hit .371 in 67 plate appearances and had some very big games for the Rafters.
Pillar is a barrel-of-the-bat hitter. He likes to swing the bat, with patience at the plate not being among his assets. Pillar uses a compact, level swing and he likes to take the ball to left and center, as opposed to the opposite field.
At an even 6-foot, 200 pounds, and at age 24, Pillar has likely realized his maximum growth. Of course, he still may add strength to his frame.
Pillar has been able to make consistent contact throughout his three professional seasons. Among the most impressive aspect of his game has been his low strikeout total. To date, Pillar has struck out only 176 times in 1,354 plate appearances.
Hitting .299 in 218 plate appearances at Triple-A Buffalo this season earned Pillar a call to Toronto when rosters expanded in September. I recently saw him play when the Jays visited the D-backs.
In 23 games for the Blue Jays, Pillar is hitting .154 covering 72 plate appearances. He has adjustments to make while trying to hit better quality pitching in a speedier game. That's very natural.
Defensively, Pillar has enough speed and reads fly balls well enough to play any outfield position. I feel his average arm strength fits best in left field, but his speed plays well in center. Either way, Pillar should provide good offense, good defense and good speed.
If Pillar shows he can handle higher quality pitching during his Major League trial this September, he could win a starting outfield role. However, in the worst-case scenario, he is an ideal fourth outfielder with sufficient and deep enough tools to add value to the club.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.