Any true baseball nerd can appreciate watching Kevin Kiermaier play center field. He has been a fantastic defensive player with a near-league average bat and that alone has made him among the most valuable players in the game. Kiermaier has also consistently improved his fantasy stock. Last year, he posted career highs in home runs (12) and steals (21) despite making only 414 PA. In 2016, Kiermaier also more than doubled his walk rate (from 4.5% up to 9.7%) while maintaining a 17.9% K-rate. These improvements have made a popular, but nonethelesss affordable fantasy sleeper.
With the caveat that pacing player statistics out is an imperfect science, which should not be taken as gospel, let’s take a look at what Kiermaier might have been able to do without missed time to injury in 2016. If you simply pace out Kiermaier’s production to 150 games (which correlates to approximately 590 PA), you are looking at 17 homers and 30 stolen bases. Those totals are without accounting for any potential, additional plate appearances that would come with batting higher in the order.
If you give Kiermaier the additional plate appearances that he would have received hitting second, you are looking at 652 PA, that would bring Kiermaier up to 19 homers and 32 steals. In terms of pure power and speed, Kiermaier starts to look a lot like A.J. Pollock (NFBC ADP 38.68) from 2015. This type of production is exceedingly rare in today’s fantasy game considering the overall lack of steals. There were only 5 players last year that hit 19 homers and stole 30 or more bases last year – Jonathan Villar, Jean Segura, Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout and Jose Altuve. According to NFBC ADP, Segura is the cheapest of the five and being selected on average 54.67, meanwhile Kiermaier is being selected on average at an ADP of 178.81. In addition to the homer and steal production, let’s give him the benefit of batting second in terms of run production. In his 51 games batting second, Kiermaier scored 32 runs and drove in 19. If you pace those numbers to the 150 game sample, we have been using, you get 94 runs and 56 RBI.
Now health and repeat performance is not guaranteed, but Kiermaier improved offensively last year and even displayed growth in the second half last year with improved patience and a better batted ball profile in terms of line drive and GB/FB ratio for his skillset. There is room for further improvement in both the power and average department if he can solve his IFFB%, which surged last year from 13.4% in 2015 to 25% last year. If he can return that to normal levels, but keep his increased batted ball authority (31.4% Hard Ct% in 2016),then Kiermaier might be able to bring his .246 batting average up closer to .270. Kiermaier also has a history of hitting right handed pitching well, but struggling against lefties. That was until last year, when he was very productive against lefties, but was only average against righties. If he can regain his form against righties and sustain his success against same-handed pitching that is yet another path for Kiermaier to improve his batting average from last year’s mark.
In leagues where you are starting three OFs, Kiermaier is the perfect 4th OF. He provides significant upside with a pretty sound floor at a reasonable price. If he takes a leap forward then you have a significant trade asset on your bench. Even if he remains exactly the same, Kiermaier is a full, healthy season from being a player with a rare skillset, who will provide much needed depth and production to fantasy teams from off the bench or in a utility spot.