Tampa Bay Rays: The underrated Kevin Kiermaier

Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is one of the most overlooked players in the game despite his all around solid performance.

Over the years, the Tampa Bay Rays have generally toiled in relative anonymity. While players such as Evan Longoria, David Price, and Blake Snell have garnered the attention of the general baseball fan, the Rays are seen as that scrappy underdog whose ability to find free agent bargains and impressive minor league talent allows them to compete against the larger market teams.

That mindset causes players on the Rays to be overshadowed. For a player like Kevin Kiermaier, he has generally become known through his impressive defense, as he is a human highlight reel when he is on the diamond. However, he is far more than just a brilliant defensive player.

Kiermaier is certainly excellent defensively. He has saved 53 runs on defense, winning three Gold Glove awards in the process. The active leader in range factor amongst major league outfielder, Kiermaier routinely gets to balls that other outfielders would be unable to track down, a major boon to the Rays pitching staff.

When healthy, Kiermaier has also been a solid all around offensive threat. From 2014 through 2017, he posted a solid .262/.319/.431 batting line, hitting 76 doubles and 47 homers while stealing 60 bases in his 1734 plate appearances. He was the type of player any team wanted to build around, including the Rays, who had signed him to a six year, $53 million extension.

However, injuries have continued to be a problem for Kiermaier. He has appeared in over 110 major league games just twice, and has only once made it through a full season healthy. Those injuries appear to be starting to wear on him, as Kiermaier just has not been as productive as he was in the past.

And yet, he is still an intriguing source of power and speed. In a down 2019 campaign where he posted a disappointing 79 OPS+, he still managed to hit 14 homers and steal 19 bases. Kiermaier was able to capture his third Gold Glove award last year, and managed to post a bWAR of 2.4 despite those numbers on offense. If he can stay healthy, it is not outside the realm of probability that he can, once again, be an all around threat.

Maybe then, Kevin Kiermaier can get the recognition he deserves. However, as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, that still may not happen.