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Kevin Kiermaier determined to excel in 2018

“I want to remind people in the baseball world who the best defensive player on the planet is”

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kiermaier is one of the best players in baseball...when healthy.

However, staying healthy has been a problem for the Platinum Glove winning center fielder, as he has missed significant portions of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, leading some to believe he is injury prone.

In 2016, Kiermaier fractured his hand while attempting to make one of his patented diving catches in the outfield. The injury required surgery and Kiermaier would eventually miss just under two months.

In 2017, Kiermaier - in an attempt to avoid a collision with White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu - slid into first base and suffered another devastating injury. It was determined that he fractured his hip, and he would spend another two months on the disabled list.

Despite the injuries, Kiermaier will stick what has made him successful in the majors.

“Diving catches, all that, that’s what got me to the big leagues. That’s what got me to this point. I can’t change that. I know I need to stay on the field, but at the same time if I were to play any less aggressive, I feel [like] that’s how you get hurt.”

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

When he is on the field, Kiermaier has done extremely well. Once he was activated this past August, Kiermaier excelled down the stretch, putting up a 133 wRC+ over his final 153 plate appearances, also showing impressive pop as he launched eight home runs.

Kiermaier feels like how he produced during those final two months of the 2017 season, that’s what he can do over a full season. He is out to prove that he can do it all on the field, whether it being the best defensive player in baseball or picking up where he left off on the offensive side of things.

“I want to remind people in the baseball world who the best defensive player on the planet is, and I say that confidently. I got a lot of reminding to do for a lot of people.”

The Rays know they have something special with Kiermaier, signing him to a contract extension last spring. The potentially seven year-$66.15M extension runs through Kiermaier’s age-33 season, allowing him to become a free agent following the completion of 2023 World Series, so we’ll have a long time to figure out just how good Kiermaier can be.