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Kevin Pillar was drafted in the 32nd round of 2011 draft. He was the 979th player taken.

Obviously, he was never, never supposed to even sniff the major leagues. All 30 teams had said so, over and over. He had a chance to be organizational filler. He got $1,000 as a signing bonus.

It's been eight years, and of the 978 players taken ahead of Pillar, exactly six have accumulated more WAR at the major league level: Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, George Springer (all 1st round picks), Mookie Betts (5th round), and Kyle Hendricks (8th round).

That's pretty remarkable.

The first mention I can find of him here on Da Box came not on Draft Day, but in October 2011, when the prospects were being reviewed. Pillar wasn't one of the Top 30. He wasn't one of the prospects to watch. He didn't even get a single vote as a prospect to watch, but Thomas mentioned Pillar as someone worth paying attention to anyway (in the same breath as Dalton Pompey and Danny Farquhar, who didn't get any votes either. Thomas, did you buy any lottery tickets that week? I mean, geez - after the Top 30, after another 6 guys worth watching, after another 8 guys who got votes from someone - you just drop a few names and three of them end up in the Show?)†
Kevin Pillar | 41 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Tuesday, April 02 2019 @ 04:37 PM EDT (#371869) #
Reposting with an additional comment from the other thread.

I wish Kevin Pillar the best. 

I'll take the plaudits talking up Pillar a few years before he arrived, but Pillar actually surpassed my expectations.  I thought that he might be a little better as a hitter, but I had no idea that he would become (arguably) a Gold Glove quality centerfielder at this peak.  He did it without exceptional speed, but with hard work and courage/reckless abandon/durability. The Superman dives were a lot of fun. 
hypobole - Tuesday, April 02 2019 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#371873) #
Don't think I saw him until he reached the majors, but I started following him as he was raking in Lansing. Also noticed him piling up OF assists in AA. Thought his hitting and arm would be his plus tools if he could make it in the majors.

And yeah, his fearlessness really stood out - the total opposite of Colby Rasmus' total aversion to outfield walls his final season here.
dan gordon - Tuesday, April 02 2019 @ 05:34 PM EDT (#371874) #
Based on how well Pillar hit in the minors from 2011 to 2013, and how rapidly he moved through the system, I always thought he was going to be a very good major league hitter, but he never really produced as much as I thought he would. The lack of plate discipline really capped his potential. I had no idea he would be as good a defender as he turned out to be. He provided a lot of entertainment with his amazing catches. At this point, at his current salary, he doesn't really have a lot of value, and the trade doesn't amount to much. Nice to get a young pitcher with some upside.
Magpie - Tuesday, April 02 2019 @ 06:24 PM EDT (#371877) #
It's still boggling my mind that the 7th most valuable player, using career WAR, taken in the 2011 draft was the guy that was picked 979th. I started on Pillar's draft page and thought - let's see how far we have to go to find someone better. And I went to Round 31. And Round 30. And Round 29. And so on and so on. I was mostly looking at lists of names with blank columns where their major league totals would be. If they'd made it so far. I hit Round 22 and - there's someone! Oh, it's Aaron Nola, who didn't sign, went to college and was drafted in the first round three years later. That doesn't count. And so on and so on and so on.

The Jays got just incredibly lucky with that one. Pillar in the 32nd round, Bautista in a waiver deal for a minor league catcher... you need a process, yes. But there's just no substitute for Dumb Luck.
MrPurple - Tuesday, April 02 2019 @ 08:35 PM EDT (#371896) #
Pillar exemplified more than any other player on the 2015-16 playoff team exactly who that team was and why we loved them.

Pillar was never supposed to make it, a low round draft pick, signed for a cool $1000 bucks. Did well in the minors but never considered a Ďprospectí he still climbed that minor league ladder as an Ďorganization playerí

2015 he became the left fielder on a team that fielded 6 rookie players.

Then he started catching balls.

Seemingly out of nowhere.

I know I didnít see it coming, and I watch pretty damn close.

He climbed walls, he destroyed his body to fly through the air after impossible catches and made them!

He had imperfections, but he was the reason we watched the games. What was he going to do tonight?

Soon he took over centre field and the 2015 Jays who werenít supposed to go anywhere started to win.

It became fun, they didnít win the whole thing but I have never enjoyed a season the way I enjoyed 15.

Iím saying that as someone who watched the World Series teams as an awe struck teenager.

Kevin Pillar, thanks for showing my kids how much fun baseball can be.

Fans forever.
Kelekin - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 12:54 AM EDT (#371911) #
I think the last time I was extremely active here was around the time he had just been coming up and putting up great numbers in the minors. I remember being so excited to see him push his way up and actually get a chance, and in his early years, his defense alone was enough to justify his position.

It's the right time to get rid of him. We need to see what we have in the younger guys and our outfield is very disappointing.

Thanks for the years Pillar! Good luck in SF.
Lylemcr - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#371927) #
As much as I thought it was time for him to go, I appreciate how he was a human highlight real. He needs to be the 9th hitter on a team where his expectations on his bat will be low and his glove can shine.
ayjackson - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 12:21 PM EDT (#371928) #
"But there's just no substitute for Dumb Luck."

Might make this my mission statement on the next version of my CV.
bpoz - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 12:28 PM EDT (#371929) #
Magpie is correct about the dumb luck IMO. However most of the baseball experts in the media never say that.
Chuck - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 01:18 PM EDT (#371931) #
However most of the baseball experts in the media never say that.

Would-be experts in most arenas have no understanding of the role of random variance. No punditry dollars to be made saying "shit happens". Gotta find cause-and-effect in everything, whether it applies or not. Buck and Pat find cause and effect in ABSOLUTELY everything.

Mylegacy - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#371932) #
Baseball can be a beautiful game. There is hitting, defending and running and all three can give moments of pure serendipity.

Kevin Pillar gave us way more than his share of defending highlights. He was (is) a highlight machine. A serendipity machine. I will always think of him with awe and admiration.

Kevin, to me, you will always be a Blue Jay!
hypobole - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 02:44 PM EDT (#371936) #
Easy to bash "experts". Yeah, Buck and Pat aren't experts on baseball, their views are too narrow. Ditto on a bunch of the Toronto sportswriters. Their forte is storytelling and opinion rather than knowledge.

On the other hand a bunch of the Fangraphs people were/are experts. I say were, not because they're no longer experts, but because they are no longer at FG. They now work for the Padres, Rays and Jays.

As far as Pillar, I've never heard anyone anywhere say the Jays drafting him didn't involve luck. Maybe the Jays scout who signed him, although I'm sure even he wouldn't come out and say "I knew he was going to do what he did".
bpoz - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 04:15 PM EDT (#371939) #
Cris Woodword was a lower draft pick than Pillar. Also Chavez Young.
92-93 - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 04:28 PM EDT (#371945) #
When Pillar came up for good in 2015 he still was not thought of as the future CF; that was Pompey, who started in CF that year with Pillar in LF. The defensive value Pillar ended up providing in CF was nothing short of amazing.

I will never forget, among many, the diving-forward catch he made in the playoffs and the silhouette on the outfield turf it left visible from the nosebleeds for the rest of the game. Godspeed Kevin.
JB21 - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 05:44 PM EDT (#371951) #
During the summer of '13 I traveled to Buffalo to see Jose Reyes play in a rehab game and Pillar (who had flown through the system) was in CF. Because of this site I was well aware of KP, and was excited to see him hit.

Late in the game an opposing player hit a ball that was on its way out and Pillar in an attempt to catch the ball ran out of room and smashed into the CLF wall as hard as I've ever seen a player smash into an OF wall. It was obvious that he had no clue where he was out there and I had decided them (and wrote on here) that Kevin Pillar would never make it as a CF.

Oops.
John Northey - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 06:29 PM EDT (#371956) #
Late picks (round 20 or lower) with 10 WAR drafted by the Jays....
1982: round 27: Mike Henneman (DNS...12.9)
1985: round 36: Jim Abbott (DNS...19.6)
1987: round 45: Darren Lewis (DNS...10.5)
1988: round 44: Scott Erickson (DNS...24.8)
1988: round 28: Woody Williams (30.2...lots after being traded)
1989: round 20: Jeff Kent (55.4, might go to HOF, most post trade...was 2nd best Jay drafted that year as John Olerud also was drafted in the 3rd)
1991: round 25: Ryan Franklin (DNS...11.5)
1996: round 33: Orlando Hudson (DNS)
1997: round 43: Orlando Hudson (did sign...30.9 - one of 3 with 20+ that year drafted including Vernon Wells and Michael Young)
2011: round 32: Kevin Pillar (14.6 so far)
2011: round 22: Aaron Nola (DNS 15.7)


So some good luck in the later rounds, but most didn't sign. 7 DNS vs 4 who did (Hudson on both lists). Jays always rolled the dice in those later rounds and sometimes it paid off, mostly didn't but never hurts to try.

Funny how twice the Jays drafted 2 guys late who would have lots of success (1988 with Erickson & Williams, 2011 with Pillar & Nola).
John Northey - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 06:30 PM EDT (#371957) #
FYI: Tellez is a 30th rounder.
Magpie - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 06:39 PM EDT (#371960) #
Buck and Pat aren't experts on baseball

They have a different kind of expertise. They know more about actually playing the game than you or I or anyone you're likely to meet. Of course, that's not what they're being asked to do in their current jobs.
John Northey - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 06:40 PM EDT (#371961) #
Instead of ex-players I'd like ex-coaches on the broadcast as I bet they'd have the ability to explain what is happening and why better than the ex-players as that was what their job was in a lot of respects.
Magpie - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 06:45 PM EDT (#371962) #
I also think it's possible that the broadcasts are not being aimed at people who load FanGraphs and Prospectus every day. They might think that's not their entire audience.
dan gordon - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 07:18 PM EDT (#371966) #
I'd like to see a stats expert as part of a 3-person broadcast team, but there probably aren't enough fans who are that into baseball stats for broadcasters to make that happen.
hypobole - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 07:22 PM EDT (#371967) #
Magpie, yes the broadcasts are definitely not for the FG crowd. And I'd guess the FG crowd is only a small fraction of their audience. That's why I'm pretty sure at least one of Buck (almost assuredly) or Pat (less a slam dunk) are resigned unless they want to leave or can't agree on money.
Magpie - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 07:30 PM EDT (#371968) #
I think there's a general consensus that the best TV broadcast team was Shulman doing play-by-play with Martinez doing colour (honourable mention to the team that preceded Shulman-Martinez, which had Jim Hughson doing the play-by-play.)

Buck's getting pretty old, though. He's 70 now. He actually played against the Seattle Pilots, and batted against Jim Bouton. There comes a time when a fellow gets tired of airports and hotel rooms.
hypobole - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 07:31 PM EDT (#371969) #
John, we have an ex-manager.
John Northey - Wednesday, April 03 2019 @ 07:41 PM EDT (#371970) #
True hypobole - Buck is that. If they had a guy with him who was a pure play by play guy instead of another ex-player it'd be a lot better. Ah well, I'm more worried about the pen and offense than I am about the broadcast team.
GabrielSyme - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 01:52 AM EDT (#371981) #
One of the past two years Pillar started the season determined not to expand the zone - and didn't for about a week and a half - but only made weak contact, so he gave it up. I've wondered if he'd kept that approach for a little longer if he'd have been able to adjust and really come into his own offensively.

Pillar leaving definitely marks the end of an era for me (maybe in part because I've never really warmed to Stroman and Sanchez), a cornerstone of the playoff teams and a truly emblematic player. A great indication of what can be done with great effort, determination and just enough talent.

Chuck - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 10:16 AM EDT (#371990) #
I also think it's possible that the broadcasts are not being aimed at people who load FanGraphs and Prospectus every day. They might think that's not their entire audience.

I certainly agree that they know more about playing baseball than anyone around here (per an earlier remark). It would be the height of hubris to argue otherwise. Now, with respect to their roles as broadcasters and analysts (because, really, they are analyzing all the damn time), what if their audience were the FG/Prospectus crowd? Do they have more in the tank that they are not sharing with us? Could they speak credibly to we subset of baseball nerds? I have a hard time imagining this.

christaylor - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 10:29 AM EDT (#371992) #
I find the YES team does pretty well on covering the advanced metrics. They don't do it via a dedicated stats person but it is noticeable, especially when compared with Pat and Buck. I had to go into mute when Pat was going on about "arm swings" and "hand swings" as the reason why players develop power at the major league level.
uglyone - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 10:36 AM EDT (#371993) #
here's the thing - Buck and Pat talk about statistics ALL THE TIME. they have no problem waxing poetic about the importance of Wins or Saves or whatever. they go on and on about it.

they just talk about bad ones.
hypobole - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 10:39 AM EDT (#371995) #
uo, RBI's!!!
92-93 - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#371998) #
Shulman does a great job of tailoring his play-by-play to fit both sides of the coin. You can tell he has a good knowledge of the analytical side of baseball but he incorporates it into the broadcast without referencing stats that the majority of his audience doesn't recognize. When Miggy was in town Buck kept pushing his OPS+ and how he's 50% better than the rest of baseball and it sounded very unnatural. If Buck would learn to talk a little less and allow the game to breathe, he'd be fine providing the colour.
Chuck - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#372002) #
uo, RBI's!!!

Which they call "production", so as to confer wisdom on what is really just a highly team-dependent counting stat. They manage to elevate this to a character trait.

If Buck would learn to talk a little less and allow the game to breathe, he'd be fine providing the colour.

This is actually my biggest beef with them. It's not just what they are saying (which is generally babble), it is how much they are saying it. There is never a moment of quiet, a moment to breathe. Maybe all baseball broadcasts have moved in this direction, I don't know. I do know that the live baseball experience has long ago sent packing the idea that you could sit quietly at a game, enjoying the time between innings to talk to those around you (or not). Now, every blessed minute is filled with one inanity or other, as if peace and quiet were somehow anathema to the experience. (Guess I'm just sounding like an old fart at this point.)

Mike Green - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:20 AM EDT (#372003) #
While we are on the topic of calling a game,  I have a comment on the radio side.   I am hoping that Ben Wagner relaxes at the mike and begins letting the game breathe a bit too.  It's not as annoying on radio when the announcer carries on endlessly as it is on TV,.  It is preferable for the play-by-play person to paint the picture and then to leave some blank space, which the colour  person can fill or not depending on the situation. 
Chuck - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:29 AM EDT (#372004) #
I presume that there are several around here who use the MLB app to watch games. Does this give you the home team's announcers? If so, is the Buck/Pat babblefest the new norm for baseball broadcasting, or are there still those old school types who don't fear a little bit of dead air?

I agree with Mike about Ben Wagner. A wee bit too excitable. And Wilner, too, could take about 20% off (to quote Wayne from Letterkenny). Baseball doesn't need a high energy broadcast like baseball or hockey might. When Matt Devlin subs in doing Jays games, he brings the ill-suited basketball approach.

Mike Green - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:41 AM EDT (#372005) #
Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer for the Orioles are a lot of fun to watch and listen to.  It varies still quite a bit, Chuck.
Nigel - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#372007) #
I like Thorne and Palmer too. I'm a big Shulman fan. My biggest beef is that, for ex players, Buck and Pat don't actually dissect the game very much and tell you things that you don't notice. I miss Rance Mullinicks' colour work quite a bit for that. Palmer is really good at that as well.
dalimon5 - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:50 AM EDT (#372008) #
MLB TV let's you mix home team video feed with audio of radio feed...mostly only on computers. TVs with the app built in as well as most streamers do not allow you to separate audio and video feeds. I've only had success with computers to do this.

Problem with the commentary is exactly what you guys are saying...no dead air. Schulman is also guilty of this. What is also annoying is the emphasis on words..."Seezin" instead of "season." Things like that. Buck is constantly recapping the inning before the inning is over.
hypobole - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#372010) #
As a basketball fan, I find Devlin far more annoying than Buck - maybe even worse than Pat.
Gerry - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 12:05 PM EDT (#372011) #
I thought Ashby was excellent. Bring him back!

The challenge is Rogers tries for Canadian and cheap. They will usually try and pick someone like Joe Siddall to work the broadcasts. I think the majority of former players and coaches are in the Buck and Tabby mode, and I include Siddall in that group.

In general, people hate change and baseball feeds off familiarity. I can guarantee you that if the Jays dropped Buck and Tabby there would be a whole load of people upset.

Dewey - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 02:10 PM EDT (#372023) #
If Buck would learn to talk a little less and allow the game to breathe, he'd be fine providing the colour.

This is the dreaded Jerry Howarth syndrome!  Iíve been warning all of you about it for years.  (And all this time I feared I was preaching to the heathen.  Itís most gratifying to see that so many of you have seen the light.)


 But itís all over professional sports broadcasting now. These guys overestimate themselves and under estimate their audience.
Agree with Gerry about Allan Ashby.  I liked Jack Morris as well. 
92-93 - Thursday, April 04 2019 @ 02:25 PM EDT (#372024) #
Agree strongly about Ashby and Morris, they were huge losses for the radio experience. They provided valuable insight from the player's perspective (which, as mentioned above, is largely missing from Buck & Tabler) and didn't hesitate to be critical of the team and what they were seeing in front of them. Quite often Howarth would say something and you could practically hear Ashby biting his tongue.
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