by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
If you purchased our 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide you know that we believed in the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier heading into the season. Graded as a “5-Star Sleeper” at the time we said:
“He showed power in his limited playing time in ’16 (34 total extra base hits, including 12 HR) and clearly adds speed (21 SB). Throw in the potential to improve his .278 BABIP and strong approach (27.9% O-Swing%) and he could emerge as a five category producer.”
Injuries derailed the performance, or at least limited it, but when he was one the field Kiermaier lived up to the preseason expectations. Playing in 98 games (380 AB) he did the job and produced in all five fantasy categories:
Average – .276
Home Runs – 15
RBI – 39
Runs – 56
Stolen Bases – 16
We project that out to 550 AB you get roughly 22 HR and 21 SB, along with 81 R. He’s never going to be a big source of RBI, but he’s still chipping in enough there as well. Now the question is if he can maintain this production, and stay healthy to give us a full season…
That second question is impossible to answer, but at this point we have to expect him to miss time. It’s a shame, as it’s going to limit his value, but at the same time it’s a gamble we’d be willing to take if it does the job and suppresses his draft day cost.
There’s nothing in his actual production that represents a major red flag. A .337 BABIP may be on the higher side, especially given an 18.2% line drive rate, but he wasn’t swinging for the fences (32.1% fly ball rate) and has enough speed to maintain an elevated mark. Putting the ball on the ground and using his speed to beat it out is a solid strategy, and not one to discredit him for.
He did see his SwStr% (11.8%) and strikeout rate (23.5%) rise. It was consistently elevated, so we can’t simply blame the missed time, and the big issue was against offspeed pitches (17.31% Whiff%). Considering his mark from ’16 (11.90%) and the fact that it wasn’t due to trying to hit home runs, there’s still reason for optimism. Any improvement there will help to offset a regression in the BABIP, so the average is probably right around what we’d expect.
At 27-years old, is anyone going to doubt a 16.7% HR/FB, after an 11.1% mark the year before?
So there’s little reason to believe that he can’t maintain a .270/20/20 outlook, assuming we can actually get a full year’s worth of AB from him. That’s an obviously valuable skill set, and we are planning to buy the breakout come draft day.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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