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The Case for Rays Kevin Kiermaier

The Case for Rays Kevin Kiermaier
  • Scott Engel

Pick Up Kevin Kiermaier while you can!

By Cam Giangrande

There are many ways to improve your Fantasy team through the season. You can do a great job at your draft and select a team with a deep bench to swap players in and out, based on matchups and days off. You can be the most diligent regarding the waiver wire to grab a free agent on a hot streak, or first time call-up. You can make awesome trades throughout the year.

Or you can take advantage of players who have been injured and stash them until they are ready to come off the DL. Every season there are a handful of players who start the year on the DL, and are not ready to be activated until June or July. While some teams are forced to trade for reinforcements, others simply have to wait for their player to get healthy and come off the DL.

This is a very specific situation. This occurrence isn’t for the player who has a little “ouchy”, and hits the DL for the minimum 10 days from May 18th to May 28th. This strategy is geared towards looking at players who are out for all or most of the first half. In looking at players currently on the DL, who have low ownership rates, the best player to target is Kevin Kiermaier.

The last game he played this season was on April 15th, and he’s only played a total of 12 games. In that game he tore a ligament in his right thumb. He had surgery on April 20th and isn’t due back until the middle of June. After the injury, he was dropped by the majority of his owners, and is currently owned in only 20% of CBSSports.com leagues.

I will argue that Kiermaier is better than any other free agent pickup you can make. And he’s better than what you may get in any trade you can make, because you can get him for nothing. If you look at his three-year averages, you’ll see that he’s averaged double digit home runs and stolen bases, averaging 12 home runs and 18 stolen bases per season. He’s a .260-.270 hitter.

The best comp for Kiermaier is Kevin Pillar. Over the past three seasons he has also averaged 12 home runs and 18 stolen bases; and his batting average has been .267 during that period. Pillar is owned in 77% of leagues, which means you’ll most likely have to trade for him if you want him. It makes much more sense to simply pick up Kiermaier.

Another comparison to Kiermaier is Byron Buxton. The initial knee-jerk reaction is that Buxton is a far better player. He has the name and the pedigree of being a consensus top prospect for years. Last season he showed his potential, with a terrific second half. He ended the season with 16 home runs and 29 stolen bases. Most Fantasy books and websites predicted that this would be the year he put it all together, and threaten to be a 30/30 guy. Having a 20/20 season was a foregone conclusion. This was supposed to be his breakout year. We’re now into June, and he has zero home runs. He’s batting .156. And he’s back on the DL; for the second time this year.

Not only was this supposed to be a breakout year for Buxton, but it was supposed to be a continuation of last season’s success for the Twins. They are well below .500 and teetering on the cusp of playoff contention. At some point the Twins will need to make a decision on Buxton. He’s still only 24 years old, and should just now be entering his prime seasons. He’s under team control and team friendly money through 2021, so there’s no urgency on that front. But at some point Twins brass will have to decide if they want to go to battle penciling Buxton in at center field every day. The talent is boundless, but so have been the disappointments and underachievement.

With so much money coming off their books at the end of the season, they may want to take a chance and be bold. An adage in Fantasy is that to be successful, a team needs to be bold. The same is true for MLB teams. The Twins and Rays should each be bold, and trade Buxton for Kiermaier. Here’s why it makes sense for both teams.

There is no doubt the Rays are in a complete tear down, rebuild mode. Their payroll this season is $76 million, and next season they only have $17 million in contracts. Kiermaier accounts for $8 million of that. Going forward, they have him under contract through 2022 with a total of $45 million left to pay the outfielder. They would love to tear that contract from their payroll. What better way to do that than to trade for a young player like Buxton who they have for relatively no money through 2021? The fan base, (what it is) will be fine with trading Kiermaier, with the return being a prospect like Buxton.

For the Twins it makes sense because they need a centerfielder they can count on. They are a young team who made the playoffs last season, and hope to stay competitive for years to come. They have a ton of money coming off their books at the end of the year. Joe Mauer, Lance Lynn, and Brian Dozier are all free agents at the end of the season, which will free up $44 million. Even if they re-sign Dozier, they will have the money to budget for Kiermaier. For all of Buxton’s defensive prowess; winning a gold glove in 2017…Kiermaier has won two. And for all of Buxton’s potential, Kiermaier has already been a consistently solid player.

Pick up Kiermaier in your league; he’ll help you heading into the second half of the season. If the Twins follow this advice, they’ll have him for a potential stretch run this season, and have his services for the next four years, through 2022. He’s still only 28 years old. The reality is he’s been a better professional so far in his career. He’s had a better three-year run from 2015-17, and very well could continue to have the better career going forward.  Throughout history, baseball has been lined with highly touted prospects that never lived up to the hype, expectation, talent, or potential. Buxton is starting to look like one of those players.

Featured Image:  (AP Photo/David Banks)