Just in case, let’s get this out of the way early: Kevin Kiermaier is the Rays’ center fielder. You probably already knew that, but you can never be too safe. Kiermaier is considered by everyone to be something of a defensive whiz. They say you’re supposed to open with a joke. Here’s a funny picture that proves even a defensive whiz can end up in a humiliating screenshot:
There’s a perfectly good explanation for what happened that relieves Kiermaier of pretty much all blame, but it’s more fun if you don’t know. Look at that guy! What a silly person.
Realistically, for the hitter, it’s probably a good thing that what happened happened. Spoiler alert: By rule, the hitter was awarded a home run. Had a physical structure not interrupted the flight of the baseball, there’s a decent chance Kevin Kiermaier would have, a few seconds later.
Major League Baseball fans were first introduced to Kiermaier late in 2013, when the Rays called him up for tiebreaker game 163, and the AL Wild Card Game. Kiermaier wasn’t promoted to serve as some sort of dangerous slugger off the bench. Nor was he around to be a potential pinch runner. Kiermaier was brought up specifically for his outfield defense. The Rays knew it was a little crazy, but they thought Kiermaier was the best defensive outfielder in the organization, so it wasn’t hard to talk themselves into it. Kiermaier played an inning in the first game. He played two in the second. That was it. Over the winter, Baseball America called Kiermaier the No. 10 prospect in the system.
Some prospects go away. Some hype proves to be unjustified. I don’t think it would’ve been a shock had Kiermaier never shown up again, or had he been limited to a bench role. But he wound up playing 108 games last year as a rookie, and he’s already close to 130 as a sophomore. Kiermaier’s bat has developed enough for him to play nearly every day. And because he’s played so often, we’ve seen ample evidence of his defensive skill. The Rays, back then, were on to something. I’m obligated to share some defensive highlights. The hardest thing is picking.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.