On a night where the future of Major League Baseball was on display and every fan could revel in the optimistic atmosphere surrounding their respective team, there was still baseball to be played.
A few days ago, I wrote about the Tampa Bay Rays’ struggle and wondered why they’re playing so poorly. Since then, the Rays have lost five more games to bring their current losing streak to ten games. At 23-38 (.377 winning percentage), they have the worst record in baseball, just a year after finishing 21 games over .500 and making the playoffs. Although they lost again last night, the Rays were able to see some tremendous baseball by one of their rising prospects.
Perhaps even more discouraging than the Rays’ ten-game losing streak is the loss of reigning AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, who is expected to miss two months with a stress fracture in his wrist. Last night, the man called up to replace Myers in the lineup put on the best performance of his career.
Kevin Kiermaier is in his third stint of the year on the major league ball club, and this one looks a bit more promising than the first two. With Myers out, Kiermaier, a 24 year-old, former 31st-round pick, will get the chance to play nearly everyday in right field. Known for his outstanding defensive abilities (he was put on the Rays’ 2013 postseason roster despite not having a single big league at-bat), Kiermaier has already played in each outfield position this year. Now, he will get the opportunity to remain in one spot and show the Rays what he can do while playing on a consistent basis.
If last night’s performance is any indication, Kiermaier will be a great addition to the ball club. Hitting 8th in the lineup, Kiermaier went 3 for 3 with a walk. His hits included a single, a double, and the 3rd home run of his career, a solo shot in the 5th inning. It was Kiermaier’s first career three-hit game and he now has 11 hits in 29 major league at-bats, a .379 batting average. Although the Rays lost to their in-state rival Miami Marlins 11-6, the emergence of Kevin Kiermaier brings a sense of optimism to the dismal Tampa Bay Rays organization.
While best known for his defensive prowess, Kiermaier hasn’t been a slouch offensively at any level this year. in between his call-ups, Kiermaier was hitting .305 with 28 runs and 11 stolen bases in 34 games for the Triple-A Durham Bulls.
Unless Kiermaier can perform at an extremely high level in the big leagues, he will most likely be relegated to bench when Myers comes back from his wrist injury. That doesn’t mean that Kiermaier can’t be a productive player as the fourth outfielder on this team. A young player, there is no doubt that Joe Maddon and the Rays will want to see what Kiermaier can do in the majors to see what kind of role he will play on the club next year.