Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier suffered an apparent head injury against the Chicago White Sox on Friday. However, he is ready to make his return to the field.

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Kiermaier in Lineup vs. White Sox

Sunday, April 17

The Rays confirmed Kiermaier is batting eighth and playing center field against the Chicago White Sox.

Kiermaier’s Defense Crucial for Rays 

Kiermaier is in the midst of his third full major league season, and he is off to a slow start so far with a .160/.323/.160 line in nine games entering Friday. Most importantly, though, he is perhaps the best defensive center fielder in baseball.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the former 31st-round pick ranked first in the American League last season with a Defensive Wins Above Replacement of 5.0. Also, his overall WAR of 7.3 ranked third in the AL despite modest production at the plate.

He hit just .263 with 10 home runs, 40 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Kiermaier’s on-base percentage of .298 was below average as well, which made his high WAR a remarkably rare achievement, per Hardball Stats:

Kiermaier’s offensive struggles caused many to question his true value, but the 25-year-old Indiana native has no doubt that he is an impact performer.

According to Gabe Lacques of USA Today (h/t WTSP 10News), Kiermaier pointed toward an increased emphasis on defense:

People always say, ‘You can’t tell me So-and-So is less valuable than Kiermaier.’ I want to say, go look at some of the video from last year, late in games, when I made a diving catch with runners in scoring position, when I threw a guy out when we were up one in the ninth. We win those games.

I still don’t know how WAR is calculated, but I think, even though I’m not out there hitting 35 home runs and driving in 120 – and those guys are very valuable – I’m a game-changer out there. I’ll let those guys up there working on the computers value that whatever way they want.

If people want to be bitter about where I was ranked, go ahead. The game’s changing. It’s not just about offense anymore.

The Rays have little margin for error since they aren’t a particularly explosive offensive team and they have a lot of question marks in their bullpen.

Kiermaier helps immensely in that regard due to the amount of runs he saves defensively.


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