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Kevin Pillar brought experience to the outfield

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The noted center fielder had his best offensive season

Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 17, Kevin Pillar: 0.1 rWAR

Back on August 31 with the trade deadline clock ticking down and the Rockies one game under .500 (17-18), they made a move, trading pitcher Jacob Wallace and international trade money to the Red Sox for center fielder Kevin Pillar. (Becca Guillen wrote about the trade here.)

The Red Sox had signed him in February to a one-year, $4.25 million deal. In his 31 games with the Red Sox, Pillar slashed .274/.325/.470.

In addition to his defensive abilities, Pillar, 31, brought a right-handed bat to an otherwise very lefty-centric outfield that was missing an injured David Dahl.

The Rockies were excited about the deal.

“He plays a really good center field,” manager Bud Black said. “He’s an aggressive, hard-nosed player. He’s a leader. He’s a—I know it’s used a lot—but now he’s a gamer. That, I think we need right now.”

“I’ve always thought of him as a gamer and a grinder,” general manager Jeff Bridich said. “And I think that will be a great fit for our club.”

“It’s a big part of the equation in this case,” he added. “The energy, the effort, doing little things to help teams win a game, bringing some sort of personality and some excitability on the field.”

I’m sensing a theme here.

Pillar played an authoritative center field. Take this catch in San Francisco for example:

That said, looking authoritative isn’t everything, and his defense was not statistically terrific. According to FanGraphs, Pillar earned a DRS of -4 (the same as David Dahl) while as measured by Baseball Savant, he was -2 in terms of Outs Above Average. (Raimel Tapia, Sam Hilliard, and Charlie Blackmon were 0.)

Offensively, he was solid. Pillar appeared in 24 games with the Rockies, slashing .308/.351/.451 in 91 plate appearances. He earned an OPS of .801 and a wRC+ of 99. In terms of his career, Pillar had a strong offensive season in 2020.

Here he is going yard against his former team, the Giants:

In addition to his on-field skills, it’s clear the Rockies were also interested in his clubhouse presence. He is, after all, a noted “grinder” and “gamer.” At his first post-trade press conference, Pillar noted that Colorado was a place he felt he could “fit in” and “be himself.” And he appeared to find his place fairly seamlessly.

Thomas Harding of MLB.com is reporting that the Rockies will likely try to re-sign Pillar.