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Tampa Bay Rays: Kiermaier Rawlings Gold Glove Finalist

By Althea Pashman
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Despite missing two months of the season, Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier has been nominated for his second consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove award.

Since 1957, Rawlings has honored defensive excellence and on Thursday, they announced the finalists for their 2016 Gold Glove Awards with Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier being nominated for second consecutive year.

A clear-cut winner last season, Kiermaier not only won the Gold Glove, but also took home the Platinum Glove, which is awarded, to the best defender in the league.

Joining Kiermaier on the ballot this year are Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays, who was runner-up last season and Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Boston Red Sox.

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Despite missing two months of the season, Kiermaier did not miss a beat as his 25 Defensive Runs Saved were tops in the American League in which he logged 872.1 innings in 105 games.

This comes off the heels of an unbelievable 2015 when he led Major League Baseball in Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) with a 5.0 mark. FanGraphs once again has Kiermaier pacing all major leaguers with a 2.95 dWAR.

According to FanGraphs, Pillar who was second had 21 DRS in over 420 more innings (1,293 inn.) posting a dWAR of 2.6 and finishing with the highest defensive value rank (23.6) of all center fielders in 2016.

The final nominee, Bradley had a 6.9 defensive value but posted the worst dWAR (1.6) and DRS with 11 while topping out with the most innings (1,375).

The Start of the Outlaw

Drafted in the 31st round (942st overall) by the Rays, Kiermaier made his MLB debut on September 30, 2013, in Game 163 of the regular season – the wild card tiebreaker against the Texas Rangers, where he would come in as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.

He would follow that up with a two-inning stint in the 2013 Wild Card game against the Cleveland Indians, as a defensive replacement.

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Having spent the 2013 season in Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, Kiermaier was named the best defensive player in the Rays’ organization and the Most Valuable Player of the Montgomery Biscuits.

With Montgomery, he played 97 games, batting .307 with five home runs and 28 RBI. With Durham he played 39 games, batting .263 with a home run and 13 RBI.

For most, getting called up specifically as a defensive player is unheard of. But former Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman stated that the club included Kiermaier on the major league roster late that season specifically for his defense in center field.

"“In our opinion, Kevin Kiermaier might be the best defensive outfielder in our organization, at any level. He is fearless, gets tremendous jumps, runs well and has a great arm.”"

That winter, Baseball America rated him the tenth-best prospect in the Rays’ minor league system.

In seeking his second Gold Glove, Kiermaier could join Evan Longoria (2009, 2010) as the only Rays to win two Gold Gloves.

Voting for the award is made of all the Major League managers and coaches. They are voting only within their league, they are unable to vote for players on their own teams, and they account for 75 percent of the selection process with the remaining 25 percent going to the members of the sabermetrics community.

Kiermaier was the only member of the Rays team to be selected, though Evan Longoria also deserved a nomination but Baltimore’s Manny Machado, Seattle’s Kyle Seager and Texas’ Adrian Beltre received the nominations.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Five Veteran Players on the Bubble

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How fitting that the winners will be revealed on Election Day, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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