As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. However, that is not the case with Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier.
Over the past few years, Kevin Kiermaier has become a key part of the Tampa Bay Rays. With his solid all around offense and other worldly defense in center, Kiermaier has proven to be one of the more valuable players on the team. As such, it is not a surprise that he was awarded with a six year contract extension, including an option that keeps him under team control through 2023.
This season, Kiermaier was cruising along to a typically strong season when disaster struck. He suffered a hairline fracture in his right hip, and was placed on the 60 day disabled list. Even if everything progresses perfectly, and Kiermaier returns as quickly as possible, he will not be eligible to return until August.
With the Rays fighting for a postseason berth, and Colby Rasmus departing the team due to personal reasons, Kiermaier is even more important to the team. It is likely that a starting outfield of Mallex Smith, Steven Souza, and either Corey Dickerson or Peter Bourjos could survive a couple of weeks, but that is not the outfield the Rays would want to head into the postseason with.
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Prior to his injury, Kiermaier was in the midst of another solid season. He had produced a .258/.329/.408 batting line, hitting seven homers and stealing 10 bases in his 62 games. Defensively, he continued to be an excellent center fielder, making the remarkable appear routine.
Of course, there are questions as to whether or not Kiermaier will be the same player upon his return. Hip injuries are always tricky, especially the fracture that Kiermaier is dealing with. As a player who relies as much on his legs as he does, it may take a bit of time before he returns to form.
However, if healthy, Kiermaier would give the Rays quite the formidable outfield. Flanked by Smith and Souza, the Rays pitching staff would not have many fly balls landing in the outfield. Even if it takes some time for the bat to pick up, Kiermaier’s defense would still make him quite valuable.
When he comes back, Kevin Kiermaier will still be a key part of the Tampa Bay Rays success. With Colby Rasmus walking away from the game, the Rays need him to return to form.