Rays Remain Unbeaten with Kevin Kiermaier on the Roster

By Peter M. Gordon

Kevin Kiermaier has not been in the major leagues for long, but he has already proven himself valuable. (Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

When the Rays had crucial games to win at the end of the 2013 season they called up Kevin Kiermaier to the big club. Joe Maddon used him as a defensive replacement in Game 163 and the AL Wild Card game, both games where the Rays either had to win or go home. Then the Rays brought Kiermaier back to the big club for the first two games in Cincinnati, and they won again. He went 0-4 on Saturday, but saved a run with a great throw to the plate that helped the Rays seal their 1-0 victory. The Rays sent him back to Durham after Saturday, and lost big on Sunday. Is that just a coincidence?

Well, yes. Four games is a small sample size. Kiermaier has outstanding defensive ability, but it would be silly to suggest that someone who played as little as he did had a significant impact on any game except Saturday’s. I’m not suggesting that. Yet Kiermaier does bring some advantages to the major league roster. He gives the Rays a left handed bat off the bench, play top-notch defense in the outfield, and can pinch-run. He’s hit well so far at Durham–he’s tied for the team lead in runs scored with 10 and for home runs with 2 even after missing a couple of days, and he also has has a .310 batting average. Kiermaier is valuable because of his defense alone, but it should be scary to the rest of baseball to know that he is also coming along as a hitter.

If the Rays kept Wil Myers in the minors until June last year, it’s not likely they will bring Kevin Kiermaier up permanently until at least June of this year. He isn’t the prospect that Myers is, and there is no clear starting spot available for him. However, if Kiermaier keeps hitting well at Durham and the Rays’ offense continues to sputter, they will have no choice but to usher in the Kevin Kiermaier era sooner rather than later.