After a birthday enforced two week hiatus, I joined Matt Baker on the Team1040 last Friday for our weekly Toronto Blue Jay and their affiliates chat. With so much going on in the system over the past couple of weeks it was tough to touch on everything. We did managed to discuss the Jays bullpen woes, Aaron Sanchez, and Franklin Barreto. As usual, excellent stuff, well worth a listen.
One topic I was hoping to get to and couldn’t was the recent play by some key members of the Buffalo Bisons. Matt mentioned fact that the Bisons were tied (at the time) with Pawtucket for first in the International League Northern division. I was surprised by this as don’t really pay much attention to the standings, preferring to focus on the players and their development.
Since Friday, the Herd reeled off four more wins to make it seven in a row before falling last night to the Gwinnett Braves. A huge part of the Bison’s streak was the resurrection of Kevin Pillar‘s bat. After doing nothing but hit through his first three pro seasons, Pillar was humbled by major league pitching in 2013. During his first 110 plate appearances with the Jays he only OPSd .583 for a -0.4 oWAR.
Still, the California native would have been reasonably bullish on his chances to win the Jays fourth outfield spot this season. A poor spring and having minor league options meant that was never going to happen and Kevin found himself back in Buffalo. Unfortunately his poor spring carried through the start of the International League season as he slashed a horrific .114/.152/.205 in his first 10 games.
Things started to perk up during the back end of a double-header on the 17th of April though. A two for three night kicked off an ongoing 18 game hitting streak where he has racked up 29 hits, including nine extra base knocks. During this time he is slashing an incredible .412/.459/.574 (excluding last nights game). Things have obviously turned and Pillar was rewarded with an IL Batter of the Week award.
With the optionless and sometimes clueless Moises Sierra now a member of the Chicago White Sox, any injury to the Jays incumbent outfield means a straight up decision between Anthony Gose and Pillar. Gose has his strengths, notably his plus defence and speed. I don’t think there is any argument about who is the better hitter though. Pillar’s second half of April and first week of May have put him right back into the conversation.
With Marcus Stroman making his much-hyped mlb debut this past week, the second Vancouver Canadian to wear a Blue Jays uniform, it’s easy forget that the first ex-C is killing it in Buffalo.