Pillar in May 2012
Toronto Blue Jays – No. 11
January 4, 1989 |
West Hills, California
|August 14, 2013 for the Toronto Blue Jays|
(through 2014 season)
|Runs batted in||20|
Pillar was an All-American center fielder in college. He set the NCAA Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak in 2010, and established his school's all-time record with a career batting average of .367. Pillar was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round (979th overall) of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft.
In 2011 he batted .347, winning the Appalachian League batting title in his first minor league season. In 2012 he batted .323, while stealing 51 bases, and was named the Midwest League MVP. He made his major league debut for the Blue Jays in August 2013. In December 2013, Baseball America identified him as the "Best Hitter for Average" among Blue Jays' prospects. In 2014, he led the International League in doubles while batting .323, and was named an IL post-season All Star. In his minor league career through 2014, he batted .322.
Pillar, who is Jewish, was born in the Los Angeles district of West Hills to Mike and Wendy Pillar. His mother is Jewish and his father is Christian; Pillar had a Bar Mitzvah. His nickname is K.P.
In high school at Chaminade College Prep, he played outfield on the baseball team; point guard on the basketball team; and running back, slot receiver, outside linebacker, and kick/punt returner on the football team. He earned first-team all-league honors in each sport. In baseball, he batted just under .400 for his high school career, with a high of .463 in his senior year.
He attended California State University, Dominguez Hills, in Carson, California. There, he majored in mathematics and business, and played center field for the Toros baseball team, for which he was an All American. As a freshman in 2008 he hit .379, the fifth-highest average in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (as he was also third in the league with 20 doubles, and fifth in the league with 17 steals), and was named to the All-CCAA 2nd team. As a sophomore in 2009 he batted .329 and was again named a 2nd-Team All-CCAA selection, while stealing 18 bases in 19 attempts.
In 2010, as a junior he set an NCAA Division II record at the school, with a 54-game hitting streak, five games more than the prior record. During his streak he came to the plate eight times needing a hit in his final at bat, and got one. Batting .379 for the season, he was also named a Rawlings/ABCA National Gold Glove Award winner, ESPN the Magazine/CoSIDA Academic 1st-team All-District, an Honorable Mention All-American by NCBWA, 1st-team Daktronics/NCAA, NCBWA and Rawlings/ABCA All-West Region, and 1st-team All-CCAA selection, giving him three All-CCAA honors in three years. In his senior year, he batted .369 with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
Pillar finished his college career as the school's all-time batting leader, with a .367 average.
Draft and minor leagues
Pillar was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round (979th overall) of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. His signing bonus of $1,000 was so little, after taxes, that he needed to ask his Mom for some additional money so that he could have enough to buy an iPhone. When he was promoted to the majors two years later, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said: "Clearly ... and I say that respectfully, we got him wrong. Just because, if he has a chance to get to the big leagues, you don't wait for the [32nd] round to select him."
Pillar played for the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2011, and batted .347 over 60 games, winning the Appalachian League batting title and leading the organization in batting average. He was named an Appalachian League All-Star. He holds the team's all-time records for batting average, on-base percentage (.377), and slugging percentage (.534). He was then called up to play for the Vancouver Canadians in its playoff run, and batted .391 to help the team win the Northwest League title.
Pillar began the 2012 minor league season with the Single-A Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League, where he recorded a .322 batting average and stole 35 bases in 86 games. He was then promoted to the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays, where he batted .323 and stole 16 bases, in 42 games. His total of 51 steals in 2012 was the second-most in the Blue Jays organization, and 10th-most in the minor leagues. Considered an excellent defensive player, he played all three outfield positions. He was named the 2012 Midwest League Most Valuable Player, after also garnering mid-season and post-season All Star honors, and being named the best hitting prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America. He was also named a Topps Class A All Star and an MiLB.com Organization All Star. He then played for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, batting a team-leading .371.
Pillar was promoted to the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats before the start of the 2013 minor league season. He played 71 games for the team, and made 12 outfield assists. He was one of the most consistent hitters in the league, and considered a top defensive outfielder "with great instincts, a powerful and accurate throwing arm," and showed speed on the base paths. Richie Hebner, his hitting coach, said: "He is the best player in the league. He does everything well." He batted .313 with 5 home runs and 30 RBIs, and was leading the Eastern League with 95 hits, before being promoted to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Through his first 11 games, Pillar batted .391 and had more doubles (8) than singles (7). During his time in Buffalo he had more extra-base hits (27) than any other player in AAA over that timespan. In 123 games between New Hampshire and Buffalo, he had 39 doubles and 155 hits which, at the time of his August 2013 promotion, were the second- and third-highest totals, respectively, in the minor leagues. Buffalo manager Marty Brown said: "I am impressed with how he has swung the bat, for sure. But he also always seems to be in the right place at the right time defensively. He's a very heads-up baserunner."
Pillar was ranked the 16th-best prospect in the Blue Jays organization by MLB.com in July 2013. Pillar had not previously ranked in the top 20 on MLB.com's rankings. Baseball America ranked him as the team's 12th-best prospect. In 2013, his 155 hits in the minors led the organization for the second consecutive year.
In December 2013, Baseball America designated him the "Best Hitter for Average" among the Blue Jays' prospects.
In 2014 with the Bisons he batted .323 (3rd in the league) in 100 games (missing 35 games during his two call-ups to the majors), leading the International League in doubles (39; second-most in the Bisons' modern era to Jhonny Peralta's 44 in 2004), 4th in extra-base hits (52), and 5th in slugging percentage (.509), with 10 home runs, 59 RBIs, and 27 stolen bases. He had both a 21-game hitting streak (the longest in the league for the season) and an 18-game hitting streak, making him the first player in Buffalo's modern era to put together two hitting streaks of 18 games or more. He was named International Player of the Week twice (on May 5 and August 6), an International League post-season All-Star, and the 2014 Buffalo Bisons MVP.
Toronto Blue Jays (2013–present)
Pillar was called up to the Blue Jays for the first time in his career on August 14, 2013, after center fielder Colby Rasmus was placed on the 15-day disabled list and utility player Emilio Bonifacio was traded to the Kansas City Royals. He was the first member of Toronto's 2011 draft to reach the majors. Pillar can play all three outfield positions, and general manager Anthopoulos considers him a "legit center option".
Pillar made his major league debut that night against the Boston Red Sox. He was given uniform number 22, which was formerly worn by pitcher Jimmy Key, among others. He was 0-for-4 with one strikeout, and made a superb, head-long, diving catch in the outfield in the Blue Jays' 4–3 extra innings win. Pillar recorded his first career hit and RBI in a doubleheader against the New York Yankees on August 20. On August 24, Pillar hit his first career home run, a three-run shot off Houston Astros starter Brad Peacock.
In 2014, after starting the season with the Blue Jays, Pillar was optioned to the Buffalo Bisons on March 22. He was called up to the Blue Jays on May 13, after Jonathan Diaz was optioned to Triple-A. Pillar had reached base safely in a league-high 26 straight games with Buffalo, and posted a triple slash of .305/.344/.461 in 34 games, while leading the league in doubles and leading Triple-A with an 18-game hitting streak. On June 9, Pillar hit a walk-off single, scoring Erik Kratz to give the Blue Jays a 5–4 win over the Minnesota Twins. On June 24 he was sent back down to Buffalo for throwing his bat after manager John Gibbons removed him for pinch hitter Anthony Gose. He was recalled on August 26 when Nolan Reimold was designated for assignment.
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- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Kevin Pillar on Twitter
- "Interview with Kevin Pillar — Arizona Fall League Standout", Matt Kaiser, November 2, 2012
- "Interview: Kevin Pillar: How the Toronto Blue Jays’ Prospect is Raking His Way Through the Minor Leagues," Andrew Martin, Seamheads.com, March 27, 2013