Surprise of Braves Spring Training could be Kevin Pillar

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Kevin Pillar signed a minor-league deal with the Braves in January, which will pay him $3 million if he’s in the majors. Braves Country might remember Pillar from his days with the Mets in which he was hit in the face by reliever Jacob Webb. He’s the biggest name on Atlanta’s list of non-roster invitees and might be the biggest surprise this Spring Training.

Alex Anthopoulos and Pillar have a connection from their days in Toronto. When the team’s GM tells him he has a legitime shot at making the roster, Pillar believes him.

“Alex drafted me, he believed in me when I was a 21-year-old kid coming out (California State University) Dominguez Hills,” Pillar said, Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I feel like in this game, there’s very few guys that you know you can fully trust and that you can believe and you can believe their word is their word. … I believe in our relationship and I believe that what he’s saying is in fact true, and he’s gonna give me the best opportunity to go out there and make a team and help this team win.”

The 34-year-old isn’t going to come in and be an All-Star for the Braves, but few organizations have been able to revitalize careers like Atlanta. Thankfully, he’s self-aware and understands his role:

“I wanted to be a superstar. That never happened,” Pillar continued. “But I always tell people there’s nothing wrong with being a good big-league baseball player. It pays well, you can do it for a long time, you earn the respect of your teammates and the fans that watch this game.

It seems he’s never been more motivated than right now. Pillar’s best season came back in 2015 when he was the starting centerfielder for the Blue Jays, recording 3.7 fWAR over 159 games. Nobody should expect that; however, he could provide this team with some much-needed depth in the outfield.

Offensively, Pillar has been a similar player over his entire career. He hits for a decent average, and his power numbers have increased with age, recording at least 15 homers in each of his last four full seasons. Still, his calling card has always been his defensive attributes. Pillar could very easily assume the role Guillermo Heredia served for the team last year as a late-inning defensive replacement. The outfield is crowded, and the competition will be fierce, but he’s never been more motivated.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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