The superlatives for the Tampa Bay Rays, and individual members of the organization, continued on Sunday when centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier earned his third Gold Glove in six seasons — edging out Mike Trout and Jackie Bradley, Jr.
The award is given to players with stellar individual fielding performances at each position in the National and American Leagues.
Kiermaier was not eligible for the award the previous two seasons due to injuries that limited his playing time to just 118 combined games. Yet The Outlaw was back to his old tricks for most of 2019, dazzling fans with improbable catches and leaps at the wall, while also gunning players out at the plate.
Kiermaier dominated the competition, leading all American League centerfielders with +13 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and 17 Outs Above Average, an MLB StatCast calculation that takes into consideration catch probability.
He also ranked first in StatCast’s quick jump measure, which calculates the amount of ground covered (in feet) in the correct direction in the first three seconds. He led all outfielders with a “jump” that was 3.8 feet better than average; he was the only player better than 2.5 feet above average.
Kiermaier previously won the AL Gold Glove in centerfield in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In 2015, he also won the Platinum Glove Award as the best defender in the AL. The 2019 Wilson Defensive Awards will be announced on Wednesday.
— On Monday, MLB Trade Rumors presented its 14th annual Top 50 Free Agents list. Tim Dierkes (MLB Trade Rumors) predicted that the Rays would ink deals with a pair of now-former Yankees, Edwin Encarnacion, and Dellin Betances.
The predictions follow:
38. Edwin Encarnacion – Rays. One year, $8MM. Encarnacion, 37 in January, just finished his eighth consecutive season with at least 32 home runs. From 2012 to present, no one matched EE’s 297 bombs or 850 RBIs. Though the slugger’s defensive limitations might ultimately limit him to the Hall of Very Good, Encarnacion proved he can still mash with a 129 wRC+ this year. That’s better than fellow free agents Nicholas Castellanos, Jose Abreu, Mike Moustakas, Avisail Garcia, and Marcell Ozuna. The key to fitting Encarnacion into the middle of a team’s lineup is finding a spot for him defensively, as he’s topped out at about 500 innings at first base in recent years and should mostly serve as a designated hitter. The Rays, Blue Jays, Indians, Orioles, White Sox, and Yankees could theoretically find a place for Encarnacion’s bat, though several of those teams have already done so in the past.
43. Dellin Betances – Rays. One year, $7MM. Betances, 32 in March, authored a dominant five-year stretch for the Yankees in which he posted a 2.22 ERA and struck out 40.3 percent of the hitters he faced in 373 1/3 innings from 2014-18. Both figures are second in MLB during that time. Betances was also near the top with a 97.4 mile per hour average fastball during that period. However, a shoulder injury appeared during Spring Training 2019 and surprisingly delayed Betances’ season debut until September 15th. He struck out the only two batters he faced that day, but suffered a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon in the appearance. Betances was around 95 miles per hour in that outing, so he’s yet to return to his typical 98-99 mph range. He’d do well to hold a showcase for teams next spring once his Achilles heals and take a one-year deal to rebuild value. He’s a high-risk, high-reward addition to a contender’s bullpen.