Fantasy Baseball

Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Kevin Kiermaier

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With one week in the bag, Fantasy owners are looking at the bottom two players on their rosters with monopoly man dreams. What kind of waiver wire gold can we turn those two bags of roster coal into? Maybe we find ourselves 2019’s Corey Dickerson.

But before we buy that hot milk, we must take the cow’s temperature. A one and a half week sample size of counting stats is a dangerous gamble to base an important roster drop on. Unless the particular player in question was a DL mainstay the year(s) before and is finally back to full health. If the stats can show us that the player is swinging the bat at a 100%, we once again weigh whether this year is “the year” he stays healthy.

Enter Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. With a Gold and Platinum Glove already on his resume, the oft-injured defensive wizard enters this season as another post-hype sleeper derailed by the inability to stay on the field. He has burst out of the gate in 2019 and announced that he has plans to spend 2019 on your Fantasy roster.


It’s Week 2 of the Fantasy Baseball season and the only thing hotter than the stakes are the takes. Kiermaier is hot out the gate so we check the heat to see if he’s a true Fantasy flame or bust as cold as ice.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Kevin Kiermaier

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LHB Kevin Kiermaier, CF/OF, Tampa Bay Rays

AGE: 29, 6th ML Season
2015 Platinum & 2016 Gold Glove
4/8 Ownership: ESPN – 17.2%, Yahoo! – 20%, CBS – 39%

Standard Batting
Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 108 364 331 35 87 16 8 10 35 5 23 71 .263 .315 .450 .765 149
2015 151 535 505 62 133 25 12 10 40 18 24 95 .263 .298 .420 .718 212
2016 105 414 366 55 90 20 2 12 37 21 40 74 .246 .331 .410 .741 150
2017 98 421 380 56 105 15 3 15 39 16 31 99 .276 .338 .450 .788 171
2018 88 367 332 44 72 12 9 7 29 10 25 91 .217 .282 .370 .653 123
2019 9 34 30 8 9 3 1 2 6 2 3 11 .300 .353 .667 1.020 20
7 Yr 560 2135 1944 260 496 91 35 56 186 72 146 441 .255 .313 .424 .738 825
162 162 618 562 75 143 26 10 16 54 21 42 128 .255 .313 .424 .738 239

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2019.

Reinforced By the East: Division Factors Favor Kiermaier

vs. Pitchers Table
Name PA
AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Rick Porcello 49 47 11 2 1 0 1 1 6 .234 .250 .319 .569 1 0 0 0 1
Marcus Stroman 33 31 9 2 1 2 5 2 4 .290 .333 .613 .946 0 0 0 0 1
Luis Severino 27 25 3 0 0 0 0 2 12 .120 .185 .120 .305 0 0 0 0 0
Masahiro Tanaka 25 23 7 1 1 1 1 1 5 .304 .360 .565 .925 0 0 0 1 1
J.A. Happ 22 19 4 0 0 0 3 2 6 .211 .273 .211 .483 0 1 0 0 0
David Price 18 17 4 2 0 1 1 1 2 .235 .278 .529 .807 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Sale 18 17 5 0 0 1 3 1 6 .294 .333 .471 .804 0 0 0 0 1
Wade Miley 17 15 4 1 1 1 1 1 4 .267 .353 .667 1.020 0 0 0 1 0
CC Sabathia 16 16 5 0 0 2 2 0 3 .313 .313 .688 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Carrasco 15 13 2 0 1 1 2 1 4 .154 .200 .538 .738 0 1 0 0 0
Corey Kluber 15 11 3 1 1 0 0 3 2 .273 .467 .545 1.012 0 0 0 1 0
Justin Verlander 12 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 .091 .167 .091 .258 0 0 0 1 0
Jordan Zimmermann 11 11 6 1 0 1 1 0 3 .545 .545 .909 1.455 0 0 0 0 0
Dylan Bundy 10 9 4 0 0 2 6 1 2 .444 .500 1.111 1.611 0 0 0 0 0
Nathan Eovaldi 10 8 2 0 1 0 3 2 1 .250 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Charlie Morton 10 9 0 0 0 0 1 0 8 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/8/2019.

A quick point to make is that Kiermaier bats mostly well against AL East and competitive pitchers alike. Amongst AL East pitchers he has had at least 10 plate appearances against, Kiermaier has a .800 OPS against 7/10 of them.

The Trop isn’t a great home park for batters but they do play three divisional foes whose home park sits in the Top 10 for hitters (Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays) and at Fenway. That’s close to 40 games at hitter’s parks each year, including this one.

The Injury Fairy Has Been Stalking Kiermaier for Years

The caveat emptor that has shadowed Kiermaier’s Fantasy career has nothing to do with his talent nor his opportunity. It solely resides in his inability to stay healthy. SB Nation’s Ashley MacLennan provided a great summary of injuries that have plagued Kiermaier across his career:

  • 2014: Appeared in 108 games. Missed two games due to neck stiffness.
  • 2015: Appeared in 151 games.
  • 2016: Appeared in 105 games. Hand Surgery to repair a fractured hand while diving to make a catch. Missed 48 games.
  • 2017: Appeared in 98 games. Right hip fracture after sliding into first base. Missed 61 games from June to Mid-August. Had a filthy .306/.352/.517 slash across 36 post-DL appearances with .356 BABIP.
  • 2018: Appeared in 88 games. Injured right thumb sliding into second base. On DL mid-April to mid-June. Ended season on DL after fracturing right foot in late September.

When I began writing this, Hyun-Jin Ryu was scheduled to start and the Fantasy world was excited about it. Less than a half hour later he’s out with possibly the same injury that cost him most of 2018. We should always mind injuries, and with Kiermaier, his recklessness that goes hand in hand with the defensive wizardry and exceptional base-running skills make him high-risk for injury.

Early 2019 Concerns on Returns

SeasonGamesO-Swing%O-Contact%Z-Swing%Zone%F-Strike%SwStr%
Career56030.9%64.7%70.1%43.4%60.2%10.9%
201410829.6%66.8%70.7%42.4%59.9%9.6%
201515132.8%70.2%70.8%47.1%64.7%9.6%
201610527.9%68.8%66.1%40.6%56.8%9.4%
20179830.7%61.1%69.3%43.8%59.4%11.8%
20188833.8%56.5%73.0%41.3%58.3%14.3%
2019925.3%52.6%78.6%48.3%64.7%14.5%

Through his first nine starts his 32.4% K-rate paired with 14.5% SwStr% rank Kiermaier in the bottom 18 of 77 qualified outfielders. And his SwStr% has been steadily on the rise over the past three seasons: 2016 – 9.4 %, 2017 -11.8 %, 2018 – 14.3%.

What’s interesting about Kiermaier’s 2019 sample is the percent of pitches he’s seeing in the zone (zone%) and the amount of first-pitch strikes (F-Strike%). The only other year where he experienced a similar zone and F-strike % was in 2015, his first and only full campaign during his sophomore season.

Ratio Batting *
Year Age PA HR% SO% BB% XBH% SO/W AB/SO AB/HR GB/FB LD% HR/FB IF/FB
2014 24 364 2.8% 19.5% 6.3% 9.3% 3.09 4.7 33.1 1.14 19% 10.4% 18%
2015 25 535 1.9% 17.8% 4.5% 8.8% 3.96 5.3 50.5 0.95 26% 5.8% 17%
2016 26 414 2.9% 17.9% 9.7% 8.2% 1.85 4.9 30.5 0.72 23% 9.5% 25%
2017 27 421 3.6% 23.5% 7.4% 7.8% 3.19 3.8 25.3 0.98 21% 12.6% 16%
2018 28 367 1.9% 24.8% 6.8% 7.6% 3.64 3.6 47.4 0.99 21% 6.9% 15%
2019 29 34 5.9% 32.4% 8.8% 17.7% 3.67 2.7 15.0 0.67 30% 16.7% 0%
7 Yr 7 Yr 2135 2.6% 20.7% 6.8% 8.5% 3.02 4.4 34.7 0.94 23% 8.9% 18%
MLB MLB 2.8% 21.0% 8.1% 7.7% 2.59 4.3 31.9 0.82 25% 8.5% 12%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2019.

Once again, this is a small sample size. The 32.4% K% and 2.7 AB/K would be alarmingly higher than any other season for Kiermaier. But the season is long and stats tend to stabilize as it progresses. Of course, this is unless there is defined improvement in the offseason or the player’s health plays a role.

It would seem that Kiermaier is finally fully recovered from the early thumb problems that zapped his HR% in 2018. His HR% had steadily increased across each season beginning with 2015 until last year. The increase in his K% correlates with this increase in HR% that preceded the 2018 season.

Additionally, Kiermaier’s BB% has continued to decrease since his 2016 campaign when he boasted a career-best 1.85 K/BB ratio. And though the early 2019 returns indicated this may not be where he improves in 2019, the 0.67 Ground Ball to Fly Ball Ratio is a healthy return to his 2016 campaign that led the Fantasy community to tag him as a high potential sleeper candidate.

Kiermaier is Smashing the Ball’s Faceoff in 2019

2019 Batting Game Log
Date Opp PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA OBP SLG OPS BOP
Mar 28 HOU 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 8
Mar 29 HOU 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 7
Mar 30 HOU 3 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 .222 .222 .333 .556 8
Apr 1 COL 4 1 2 1 0 1 4 0 0 0 .333 .308 .750 1.058 6
Apr 2 COL 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .313 .294 .688 .982 8
Apr 3 COL 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 .250 .273 .550 .823 7
Apr 5 SFG 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 .250 .269 .625 .894 6
Apr 6 SFG 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 .259 .300 .593 .893 6
Apr 7 SFG 4 2 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 .300 .353 .667 1.020 6
34 8 9 3 1 2 6 3 11 2 .300 .353 .667 1.020
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2019.

Despite all the negatives with respect to plate discipline, we should remain excited that Kiermaier is swinging for the fences more than ever. The strongest stat we have from his limited sample is his 60% hard-hit rate which ranks him third amongst all MLB hitters. That puts him ahead of Christian Yelich (56.3%) and Cody Bellinger (55.3%). Among the Top-15 in hard-hit rate, only Bellinger (.419) has a higher BABIP than Kiermaier (.389).

Through 11 regular season games and nine starts, Kiermaier has the 10th highest slugging percentage (.667) amongst all MLB hitters in addition to ranking in the Top-10 in doubles (3), stolen bases (2), and triples (1). His two home runs give him a 66% extra base hit rate. Add to this ranking in elite territory amongst qualified outfielders with a 182 wRC+ (8th), 0.414 wOBA (15th), and 0.4 wSB (T-3rd).

Will Redemption in 2019 be Spelled K-I-E-R-M-A-I-E-R?

These Tampa Bay Rays do not seem destined to repeat their near playoff miss of 2018. Fellow CF Mallex Smith was dealt to the Mariners this off-season as Kiermaier enters year three of a six-year, $53M contract (7th-year team option). As seen in his ascension to sixth in the order this past weekend, manager Kevin Cash believes in a healthy Kiermaier’s bat. With Mike Zunino, Tommy Pham, Yandy Diaz, Willy Adames, and Brandon Lowe along with the eventual returns of Matt Duffy and Joey Wendle, the Rays pack a punch this year. Kiermaier’s Fantasy numbers will benefit accordingly.

Redemption in 2019 is well within reach for Kevin Kiermaier. With his health currently cooperating and well past last April’s thumb injury, Kiermaier has Top-30 OF potential if you can deal with the K’s and possibly .270ish batting average. A healthy and productive 2019 season for Kiermaier could bring a .280/.320/.480 slash with 75-85 Runs, 75-85 RBIs, 20-25 HRs, and 16-22 SBs.


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If his health goes, so be it. Be willing to take risks this early in this Fantasy season. His multi-category roto contributions heavily outweigh his K% and low batting average potential. Roster Kevin Kiermaier in 12 team leagues with dreams of Starling Marte-Lite Fantasy production in 2019.


Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

About Samir Qurashi

Samir Qurashi is from the Bay. He thinks football is a good time. You can get at him with any fantasy football questions on the tweeter: @FSPsamir and by electronica: ssq.FSP@gmail.com. He remains unspooked.

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