Kevin Pillar ranks among the Blue Jays' best homegrown players

Apr 22 2019, 11:42 pm

For the first time in his career, Kevin Pillar arrives in Toronto as a member of the visiting team. After spending the last three weeks as a member of the San Francisco Giants, Superman returns.

The 30-year-old spent seven seasons in a Blue Jays uniform and authored countless defensive gems in the outfield as a human highlight reel. Over the course of his time in Toronto, he surprisingly became one of the best position players the Blue Jays ever drafted and developed.

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As a 32nd round pick, Pillar was an underdog from the get-go. He overcame incredible odds and was the Blue Jays’ everyday centre fielder for four consecutive seasons. That’s more than anybody could’ve expected from a 979th overall draft pick.

Maybe it says more about the Blue Jays’ inability to draft and develop star players over the last few decades, but yes, Pillar cracked the top 10 on this list of the best homegrown talent in Blue Jays history.

A qualifier – this list doesn’t include international free agent signings or amateur free agent signings (which explains the absence of Tony Fernandez and Carlos Delgado). This list is strictly players who were selected in the MLB entry draft and developed by the Blue Jays organization.

Rank Player Draft Year Drafted Career WAR
1 Jesse Barfield 1977 233rd 29.6
2 Vernon Wells 1997 5th 24.9
3 Lloyd Moseby 1978 2nd 24.6
4 John Olerud 1989 79th 23.1
5 Alex Rios 1999 19th 18
6 Shannon Stewart 1992 19th 16.7
7 Aaron Hill 2003 13rd 12.5
8 Shawn Green 1991 16th 10.6
9 Kevin Pillar 2011 979th 10.4
10 Orlando Hudson 1997 1280th 8.3

Topping the list is one of the most underrated Blue Jays of all-time: Jesse Barfield. The right fielder was the Blue Jays’ ninth-round pick of the 1977 draft and established himself as best position player the organization has ever produced.

The aforementioned Pillar ranks ninth on the list of the best drafted and developed position players by the Blue Jays, with a career 10.4 WAR in Toronto. His value came on the defensive side, but teams overlooked Pillar hundreds of times over during the 2011 draft. The Blue Jays took a flyer and he blossomed into an everyday centre fielder.

Playing second fiddle to Barfield in the top five is Vernon Wells, the top centre fielder the Blue Jays organization has ever developed. He went on to win three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and was named an All-Star three times.

Lloyd Moseby was a vital member of the Blue Jays’ holy trinity of outfielders in the 80s, along with George Bell and Barfield. Bell came to the Blue Jays via the Rule-5 draft, but Moseby and Barfield were pure homegrown Blue Jays. The trio joined forces to become the best outfield alignment the Jays have ever employed.

John Olerud skyrocketed to the Major Leagues in 1989. Aside from winning a batting title in 1993, one of his claims to fame was that he never played a lick of minor league baseball. Olerud was signed in June of 1989 and called up by the Blue Jays a few months later in September.

Alex Rios rounds out the club’s best homegrown position player list with a career 18 Wins Above Replacement in six seasons with the Blue Jays. He garnered a few All-Star appearances and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2004.

Special shoutout to the “O-Dog” Orlando Hudson who bested Pillar as the biggest draftee long shot to make a successful living with the Blue Jays. Hudson was a 43rd round pick in the 1998 entry draft and made his MLB debut in 2002.

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