Kevin Pillar expecting to hit leadoff for 2016 Blue Jays

Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar tells Dean Blundell & Co. that he hasn't officially been told if he's leading off, but wonders why everyone makes such a big deal about plate discipline and walking?

The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t officially chosen their leadoff hitter, but centre fielder Kevin Pillar expects to land the role.

Ben Revere was in that spot at the end of 2015, but the team dealt the speedster to the Washington Nationals in January for reliever Drew Storen, leaving a vacancy atop of the order.

Pillar has found some success hitting there during spring training.

“Sometimes not being told is the best [but] being rolled out there everyday in that spot is kind of an indication,” Pillar told Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Wednesday. “We’re smart individuals, we’re adults, we kind of read between the lines. Nothing has been told to me, but I understand what they’re doing and where I’ll be.”

Pillar is coming off a breakout campaign with a slash line of .278/.314/.399 and .713 OPS. He was also named Wilson’s 2015 Defensive Player of the Year for centre field, which came as no surprise considering the 27-year-old was a human highlight reel, leading all outfielders in putouts with 440.

Pillar, who spent most of last season hitting seventh and eighth, ranked second on the Blue Jays in hits with 163 — only A.L. MVP Josh Donaldson had more. He doesn’t think hitting early in the order will impact the way he approaches games.

“As far as mindset, it’s really no different for me,” he explained. “The thing I really like about it is, it’s not the first at-bat but the second at-bat where you’re getting up sometimes in the second or third inning. That’s normally where I was getting my first at-bat last year. Being able to get up there to start the game and just trying to set the tone for your team.”

Pillar walked just 28 times in 586 at bats last year, prompting some to question his viability as a leadoff hitter.

“I don’t talk about walks,” Pillar said. “I talk about hits and getting on base and scoring runs … The guys who walk the most are the guys who hit the most home runs because pitchers are scared of them. That’s how you walk, so if my home run total goes up to 30 or 40, I’ll probably start walking more too.”

In addition to the “who will hit leadoff?” storyline, another question for the 2016 Blue Jays is how they’ll use Aaron Sanchez. The right-hander is looking to transition from a relief role into a starter.

Pillar gave his two cents on the situation: “I like what he’s done so far as a starter. I know he’s put in a ton of work this offseason and that’s been his mindset ever since he’s been drafted to be a starter. Fortunately for us he’s an awesome guy and is willing to do either role, but if he had his choice it would definitely to be starting. I think he’s done everything in his power to show the organization and the coaching staff he’s worthy of that.”

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