Kevin Pillar: Top 50 OF In 2016?

With the World Series imminent, it is never too early to look at player’s value heading into 2016. While free agency and offseason moves will dictate a lot of rankings movement, we can still generally start to get a rough idea of how we will rank players next season.

One of the pleasant surprises in 2015 was the emergence of Kevin Pillar and his performance in securing the starting CF spot amongst the best offense in baseball. We were all introduced to Pillar largely due to his defensive exploits and highlight reel catches on a nearly nightly basis. But what tends to get overlooked is that Pillar was no slouch at the plate either and was one of the best waiver wire gems this season.

Heading into drafts before this season, one of the buzziest sleeper options was, Dalton Pompey, as he was assumed to be able to become the starter in CF for the Blue Jays. But, due to injury and an underwhelming performance during his playing time, Pillar fully jumped all over the opportunity and took the job.

I don’t foresee Pillar being stripped of the job heading into 2016, as I think his great production and overall cooled opinion on Pompey, will allow him to get the starting nod. As we all know, nearly everyone in the Jays lineup is valuable because of the sheer amount of opportunities at counting stats they are all offered.

Pillar has earned the job security and if we dig deeper into his numbers we see that his success was not a complete fluke either. Pillar finished the year with a, .278/12 HR/56 RBI/25 SB line, allowing him to rank pretty well in OF rankings. According to ESPN’s Player Rater, he was actually even ranked 78 overall out of all fantasy players.

When I originally looked at Pillar’s success this season I expected it to be fluky because he really did not show any of this kind of upside early on in his career. But that could have been just to that he was never given consistent playing time.

Looking at his minor league stats he did show that he could offer some decent production across the board. In 2012, his first full year of pro ball, he batted .323 and stole 51 bases. In 2014, he had found himself in AAA, and posted a .323/10 HR/59 RBI/27 SB line, which pretty much aligns right with what he did this season.

Looking at his full season in the bigs all his production seems pretty legit. His .278 AVG, was no fluke as he had about a league average .308 BABIP, out of his 25 SB he was only thrown out four times and his power was consistent as he had six at both home and on the road.

Pillar’s splits between the first and second half were eerily similar too. For both halves he hit .278. He had seven homers during the first half and five during the second half. He had 13 steals in the first half followed by 12 in the second half.

For me this points to general consistency and the fact that he really did not pad his stats with one good stretch during the season. This consistency is rare, as we see it every year when there are first or second half heroes that can prove to be headaches.

Looking ahead to OF rankings in 2016, Pillar at worse sits well in the top 70. For him to ascend further into the top 50 rankings, all he will have to do is improve incrementally. Pillar should easily flirt with 15 homers with playing his home games in Toronto and the hitter friendly AL East stadiums.

There’s also clear room for a speed improvement as Pillar’s speed is another element of his game that tends to get overlooked. So if he and the Jays can continue to extenuate this skill, I can easily see him swiping 35 bags with a full year of playing time.

So let’s say he takes a minor setback with his AVG to around .260-.270, combine that with a possible 15 HR/30-35 SB line, and we easily have a top 50 OF. I do not think this is out of the realm of possibility and the Jays do not seem to all of a sudden have a hard time scoring runs in 2016, so Pillar shapes up to be a nice mid round pick in 2016.