With all due respect to pitchers, who cannot contribute on a daily basis, Kevin Kiermaier will easily be the reason to watch Rays baseball this season.
Kevin Kiermaier is a generational talent. His only disappointment in a Rays uniform has been failing to reach the innings requirement to qualify for his third consecutive Gold Glove in 2017 due to time missed for a hairline fracture mid-year. And yet, so great is his defense that he nearly matched the winner Byron Buxton’s DRS total (24) despite missing two months of the season (KK ended the year with 22).
Since Kiermaier entered the league in 2014, no one has more Defensive Runs Saves in center field (KK has 90, the next highest is 52), nor does anyone have a better UZR/150 (min. 800 innings), and those best in baseball marks still apply if you expand to all outfielder positions (where KK has 103 total DRS, and a sky-high 27.5 UZR/150).
In case you need the reminder: Kevin Kiermaier is the best outfield defender in baseball.
But it goes beyond defense: KK has grown by leaps and bounds at the plate, increasing his OPS+ from 99 to 104 to 114 in 2017, proving himself to be a capable leadoff hitter for the Tampa Bay Rays. Based on handedness, Kiermaier is expected to hit either first or second in the order from here on out. At age 28, he’s just entering his prime, and with ever improving power, The Outlaw will look for his first 20-20 season in 2018.
Oh, and did I mention he has the good face?
His team friendly contract and prodigious defense make KK a player the Rays will build around as they complete their rebuild and promote their prospects over the next two years, but until that process is complete, KK will be the reason to tune in every day, and I’m thankful for it.