2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate– Kevin Kiermaier
The Tampa Bay Rays are one of the more successful have not franchises in baseball. A large part of their success has been their ability to develop their own talent. Yet, they may not be the best developmental franchise in baseball. The key to their success has been their ability to marry that development with the ability to find valuable players where other players have not. This was a hallmark of Andrew Friedman and his run as the team’s general manager, but that has continued even after he left for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If there is one player that embodies both of those traits more than any other it is Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier is a player whose value cannot be seen by looking directly at his basic fantasy numbers. Fantasy baseball tends to diminish what he does on the diamond. In his rookie season, he managed to add 15 runs above average according to defensive runs saved. That total ballooned to a ridiculous +42 runs last season. He was the runaway choice for the Gold Glove award in center field.
Like some others we have profiled in the past (Andrelton Simmons, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado) that glove does not directly impact their offense, but it does keep them on the lineup card and affords them the time to develop as a hitter. Machado and Arenado didn’t produce big time numbers immediately, but both came out of their shells last season to be big time fantasy performers. No one is saying the same will happen with Kiermaier, but he will be afforded every opportunity to develop at the plate. After all, you don’t keep a four and a five and a half win player on the bench.
Where he has been
Neither of these seasons are anything to write home about. Kiermaier is only eligible in right field and center field in your fantasy league and you can easily find nearly 30 players combined at both spots that will out produce these numbers. A bet on Kiermaier is a bet that he will take the next step in his development as a hitter. For instance, Kiermaier had a walk rate of at least eight percent at every extended stop in the minors, but he has yet surpass more than six and a half percent at the big league level.
What is intriguing is that he has already shown more power at the big league level than at any point in the minors. Power is often the last thing to develop for a hitter, so there is certainly hope that this will continue to develop. If he develops into a 15 home run player and he continues to steal bases at the same clip then he could be a very underrated fantasy player along the same lines of Brett Gardner.
Where he could go
Fangraphs is a terrific site because it houses all of these projections in one place. It also produces expectations from the fans. Listing the expectations of the fans would be like quoting Wikipedia in a scholarly journal. Some overly optimistic buffoon could easily submit a .330/40/120/130/50 for any player and bring the average up. So, looking at it is only advisable for entertainment purposes only, but the fans seem to think he will take the next step. They have him at .272/14/66/73/23. Again, that probably includes some wildly optimistic predictions.
However, if you include that mark as kind of a ceiling for Kiermaier then you can see that it does pay to pay attention to him on draft day. He isn’t a starter in a standard 12 team mixed league, but if your league has five starting outfielders then he should probably be one of them. Like many players, he won’t be a particular boost in any one category, but he also won’t be a drag in any particular category either. There’s something to be said for that as a fifth outfielder.
A Rosy Picture
This probably represents the midpoint between what the experts think will happen and what the fans expect to happen. This simply represents what he has done extrapolated out into 600 plate appearances. His glove is so valuable that there really is only one reason why he wouldn’t get to this point.