Coming into the 2022 season, Tampa Bay Center Fielder Kevin Kiermaier was a name to watch as someone the Rays could look to move off of or slowly phase out as the young crop of position players like Josh Lowe and Vidal Brujan made their way to the big leagues.
Kiermaier got off to an extremely slow start, slashing just .200/.273/.360 during the month of April as many of the Rays bats, especially their outfield options, struggled to produce at the plate. Although he maintains elite defense, Kiermaier's bat had become even more of a liablity.
May has been a different story for the Rays outfielder. Kiermaier has slashed .286/.298/.500 in 57 PA and appears to be a much more confident hitter at the plate. His bat this month has been one the Rays cannot afford to remove from their lineup, and it should make fans wonder what Kiermaier's role should be on the team moving forward.
It has long been speculated that Kiermaier's time with the club was coming to an end, even after dealing away some outfield talent from the club. Kiermaier is in his final guaranteed year of his contract, having a club option of $13 million in 2023. His contract seemed a bit pricey for the level of play coming into the season, and certainly more than the Rays typically like to pay.
But as trade rumors have come, Kiermaier has remained a Ray, and is now producing in a way that the club desperately needs. Kiermaier's month of May could be a sign of bright times ahead at the plate for the outfielder, but his Statcast profile remains a mixed bag.
Kiermaier ranks in the bottom half of the league in both average exist velocity and xwOBA, right around the bottom third in baseball in hard hit percentage, and in the top third in chase rate in the league according to Baseball Savant. On the other hand, his strikeout percentage and whiff percentage rank in the top 20% of baseball and has ha xBA, xSLG, and barrel percentage in the top third of baseball.
If the Rays want to capitalize on Kiermaier's value before allowing him to walk as a free agent, there will be plenty of suitors interested in an elite defensive centerfielder who may have found his footing at the plate this month. Do not be surprised though if the club allows Kiermaier to hang around for one more post season run.