The Tampa Bay Rays have started to climb out of a deep first-half hole, and Kevin Kiermaier is a big reason way. His .310/8/24 line has boosted what was a pretty pathetic offense early in the season, and he’s also contributed stellar defense that have him sitting at 2.8 WAR after just 48 games. Over a full 150-game season, that’s an 8.8-WAR pace. No, Kiermaier probably isn’t the second coming of Mike Trout, but he’s been pretty damn good.
Our friends at numberFire.com recently asked the question, “Is it time we started paying attention to Kiermaier?” Their answer was yes:
He’s barely owned in Yahoo! (just 8% as of this writing), meaning that there’s virtually no risk to adding him and riding out his streak if that’s all this is. Our projections for the remainder of the season don’t look favorable for Kiermaier, but right now his bat is too good for the Rays to sit down even when they get healthy (Myers is expected back in mid-August).
If you clicked the link above, you probably saw numberFire projects Kiermaier to post a .288/5/18 line across 123 PA for the rest of the season. Let’s compare that to ZiPS and Steamer:
With Myers coming back the Tampa outfield will get a lot more crowded, but based on his current level of play Kiermaier will force his way into the lineup (probably at Brandon Guyer’s expense) and I think he approaches the 172 PA projected by ZiPS. Still, none of the forecasting systems really love Kiermaier much at all, and numberFire is easily the most bullish on his potential.
When his .345 BABIP normalizes, something that could happen soon as his LD% is a sub-par 16.0%, Kiermaier’s probably a .275-.280 hitter, and he has a history of .300+ averages in the minors that indicate he could provide positive contributions in this area. Unfortunately, he’s a ground ball hitter benefiting from a 20.5% HR/FB rate. Assuming the same K% and FB% across 170 remaining PA, we can expect Kiermaier to hit 45 fly balls the rest of the way. Given his career trends I think he’s probably more of an 8-10% HR/FB guy, which means he’s probably good for about 4 HR from here on out. For that reason I think Kiermaier’s rest-of-season line sites between numberFire and ZiPS: .280/4/18 with 4 SB.
Twelve games into June the surprising Ray is still hitting fairly well so add him up if you need a hot bat — he’s only 9% owned in Yahoo! — but be prepared to cut bait at the first sign of struggle.