Kevin Kiermaier

From BR Bullpen

Kevin Kiermaier

Kevin James Kiermaier

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

KevinKiermaier.JPG

Kevin Kiermaier made his MLB Debut on September 30, 2013, the final day of that season.

Kiermaier hit .430 with 17 homers, 90 runs and 71 RBI in 56 games for Parkland College as a freshman. The Tampa Bay Rays took him in the 31st round of the 2010 amateur draft; Tom Couston was the scout. He hit .303/.380/.431 that summer for the Princeton Rays, with 44 runs, 7 triples, 17 steals (in 22 tries) and 8 outfield assists in 57 games. He was 10th in the Appalachian League in average, tied for 4th in steals, 5th in OBP, tied for second in triples (one behind Brenden Webb) and tied Aderlin Rodriguez for 4th in runs. He did not make the league All-Star outfield as Oswaldo Arcia, Oscar Taveras and Javier Rodriguez were picked, with Jose Rivero as a utility outfielder selection.

KevinKiermaier2.JPG

Kiermaier hit .241/.316/.338 for the 2011 Bowling Green Hot Rods, though he did show speed (8 triples, 27 steals in 37 tries) and a cannon outfield arm (18 assists). He tied Rymer Liriano and Rolando Gomez for 5th in the Midwest League in triples. Among Rays farmhands, he was 5th in steals and tied Isaias Velasquez for third in three-baggers. In the winter, he hit .303/.378/.394 as a backup for the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League. Baseball America named him as the best defensive outfielder in the Rays chain.

The Indiana native split 2012 between the GCL Rays (1 for 6), Charlotte Stone Crabs (.260/.361/.367 in 57 G) and Durham Bulls (3 for 9, 3 BB). Despite his limited action, he still had six triples. He was sharper in the Arizona Fall League, producing at a .348/.444/.493 clip for the Phoenix Desert Dogs and finishing among the leaders in average (9th), OBP (7th, between Jonathan Schoop and Anthony Rendon) and steals (tied for 10th, 7 in 7 tries). He opened 2013 well with the Montgomery Biscuits, hitting .317 with 9 triples and 60 runs after 82 games.

Kiermaier made his major league debut in the one-game playoff between the Rays and Texas Rangers to determine the last team to make the postseason in the American League on September 30th; that made him the last of 230 players to make their debut that year. He did not get into the game until the bottom of the 9th, when he came in as a defensive substitute in center field with the Rays leading, 5-2. The Rangers went down in order and Kiermaier did not have a defensive chance. He was then added to the roster for the Wild Card Game and was used as a defensive substitute in that contest as well. In 2014, he played 108 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs. He split his time between right field and center field on defence. In 2015, installed as the full-time centerfielder, he emerged as one of the top defensive players in baseball, posting remarkable numbers and winning a Gold Glove as the top centerfielder in the American League and a Platinum Glove as the top-rated defensive player in the majors according to various advanced defensive metrics. With the bat, he continued to be a productive player, hitting .263 again, with 25 doubles, 12 triples and 10 homers; he scored 62 runs and stole 18 bases in 23 attempts and also drove in 40 runs.

On May 21, 2016, Kiermaier broke two bones in his left hand while attempting a diving catch in the outfield against the Detroit Tigers. He almost made a spectacular catch to rob James McCann of a base hit but the ball popped out of his glove, and he had to leave the game immediately. He was reactivated on July 15th, having missed almost two months of action. He ended up playing 105 games, batting .246 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs. Thanks to his increased power and drawing more walks, leading to a decent OBP of .331, he ended up with an OPS+ of 104 in spite of the low batting average. In spite of the time lost to injury, he repeated as the AL's Gold Glove centerfielder. In spring training of 2017, the Rays decided to make a long-term investment in his services, signing him to a six-year contract extension worth $53.5 million. What was interesting was that he was a player whose greatest value came form the defensive side of the ledger, and that the Rays' willingness to commit financially to a player of his type was a sign that teams had much greater confidence in defensive metrics than had been the case only a few years earlier. On June 8th, however, he broke his hip in an awkward feet-first slide at first base in a game against the Chicago White Sox, putting him once again on the shelf for an extended period. He was hitting .258 in 62 games, with 7 homers and 20 RBIs. He only came back on August 18th, but was able to play regularly the rest of the season, finishing at a career-high .276 in 98 games, with 15 homers and 39 RBIs.

In 2018, he was injured again after just 12 games, when he tore a ligament in his thumb while sliding into second base. The injury required surgery, forcing him to miss two months of action. He returned on June 19th and played regularly until late September, although he hit just .217 with 7 homers and 29 RBIs in 88 games. It was clear that he was not fully healthy and that this was affecting his hitting, and the Rays rested him the final week of the season. Still, his defense continued to be outstanding and the team defied all expectations by winning 90 games. He returned fully healthy in 2019. On April 17th, he did something extremely rare as he was caught stealing twice in the same inning. He led off the 7th with a single against Mike Wright of the Baltimore Orioles. He attempted to steal second, but the throw from Jesus Sucre beat him by a good margin - but SS Jonathan Villar dropped the ball and the play was scored a caught stealing and an error on Villar. Kiermaier was then picked off second by Wright when he tried to take a very generous lead because the O's were playing a defensive shift. That was also recorded as a caught stealing. It was the first time this had happened since 2011, when Brandon Phillips had been the victim. The Rays, off to a blazing hot start, won that game, 4-2. He hit .228 in 129 games that season, while still playing Gold Glove defense in center and contributing 20 doubles, 7 triples and 14 homers to the cause. He returned to the postseason for the first time since his first steps in the Show, going 0 for 4 in the Rays' win over the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Game, and 3 for 18 in their loss to the Houston Astros in the Division Series.

In 2020, the Rays posted the best record in the American League in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season, and Kevin appeared in 49 games, hitting .217 with 3 homers and 22 RBIs. He improved his OPS+ from 79 to 94 thanks to a much higher walk rate than any time before in his career. One of the highlights of his season came very early, on July 26th, when he hit a two-run triple off Shun Yamaguchi of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th inning to transform a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 walk-off win. In the postseason, he played regularly in centerfield in all four series that the Rays played on their way to reaching the World Series for only the second time in franchise history. He was part of a complex system of platooning put together by manager Kevin Cash that saw most of the team's position players appear at one time or another in almost all of the games, even when they were not starting, as he often entered games to take advantage of his baserunning speed and defensive abilities. He hit .235 with 1 homer in the tightly-fought win over the New York Yankees in the Division Series and was at his best in the World Series' loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he went 7 for 19 (.368) with a pair of long balls.

In 2021, he managed to raise his batting average by a few points, but it came at the expense of his walk rate, which fell by a similar amount, meaning that in the end, his overall stats were very similar to the previous season. He was part of a four-man rotation for the three outfield spots, with Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot and Brett Phillips also starting regularly. The Rays won another division title while continuing their unusual player usage. On September 20th, as the season was winding down, he was at the center of a small controversy in a game against Toronto: he tried to take advantage of a very wild throw by 3B Jake Lamb to go all the way around the bases for a Little League home run, but he was thrown out at the plate by a large margin. As he tries to slide under C Alejandro Kirk's tag, a cheat sheet, as worn by most catchers on their wristbands, fell loose and he picked it up and brought it back to his team's dugout with him. He claimed that he had done this unwittingly as he thought it was his outfield positioning chart, which he carries in his back pocket, that had fallen from his pocket on the play. In any case, when the Jays sent someone over to ask to get the precious document back, the Rays refused, starting a small tempest in a teapot, as commentators around both countries were tearing out their hair and rending their shirts over whether this was a terrible blow to the unwritten rules (or worse, a trespassing of one of the Ten Commandments), or simply taking advantage of the Jays' carelessness. The incident seemed closed until two days later, when Ryan Borucki hit him right in the back with a pitch in what had all the appearance of a deliberate gesture; Borucki was immediately ejected. The stunt also resulted in Borucki receiving a three-game suspension, and his manager, Charlie Montoyo, being suspended for one game. Kiermaier ended the year at .259 with 4 homers and 37 RBIs in 122 games, for an OPS+ of 103. In the postseason, he went 3 for 14 (.214), with al three hits being doubles, as the Rays lost to the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series.

On April 23, 2022, he was the hero of a very strange game against the Red Sox. Both teams used openers that day, and neither line-up was producing much as after 9 innings, not only was the game still scoreless, but six Rays pitchers had yet to surrender a hit, while the Rays had managed only a pair themselves. It all changed in the 10th as Bobby Dalbec, Boston's first batter, broke the no-hitter with a lead-off triple against Matt Wisler and the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead. But the Rays mounted an improbable comeback against Hansel Robles after their first two batters struck out: a balk and a throwing error by 2B Trevor Story allowed the designated runner to score, and after a stolen base, Kiermaier ended the game with a two-run walk-off homer to right field for an improbable 3-2 win.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2015, 2016 & 2019/CF)

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Kiermaier comments on picking up Jays' card: Montoyo moving on from incident: 'Agua under the bridge'", mlb.com, September 21, 2021. [1]
  • Bill Chastain: "Next step for Kiermaier: Upping his offense", mlb.com, February 22, 2017. [2]
  • Mike Petriello: "Kiermaier's contract rewards elite defensive skills: Rays' center fielder led Majors by converting 94 percent of catchable balls", mlb.com, March 15, 2017. [3]

Related Sites[edit]