Kevin Kiermaier is one of the best defensive outfielders in the Majors, and on Sunday he added another piece of hardware to the trophy case to prove it.
Kiermaier won his third career Rawlings Gold Glove Award in center field, edging out the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Red Sox’s Jackie Bradley Jr. The award is given to players with superior individual fielding performances at each position in the National and American Leagues.
The Rays' 31st-round Draft pick in 2010 took home honors in '15 and '16 as well. In ’15, he also won the Platinum Glove Award, given to the best overall defender in each league regardless of position.
Kiermaier was ineligible for a Gold Glove in 2017-18 due to several injuries that limited his playing time. The 29-year-old was back at full strength for most of '19 and also back to his old tricks, wowing fans with improbable catches, dead-on sprints that ended in leaps at the wall and, in one of the more memorable highlights, the first leg of an incredible relay home that cut down a crucial run at the plate during Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Astros.
En route to his 2019 honors, Kiermaier led all AL center fielders with 13 Defensive Runs Saved. He also finished with 17 Outs Above Average, which was second in the Majors behind Nationals center fielder Victor Robles.
Kiermaier’s instincts, speed and ability to get a quick jump on the ball are why he’s adding another Gold Glove Award to his resume. Kiermaier led all outfielders with a jump that was 3.8 feet better than average, which calculates the feet covered in the correct direction in the first three seconds.
Just how good is the Rays’ center fielder? Let’s take a look at some of his most impressive plays of the season.
April 17 vs. Orioles
Catch probability: 15%
Distance needed: 51 feet
Opportunity time: 3.4 seconds
Jump: 9.4 feet better than MLB average on similar plays
This was the first of Kiermaier’s three five-star catches this season. Jesús Sucre thought he had a hit off the bat, but Kiermaier’s closing speed was on full display before he made a diving grab. Even Kiermaier couldn’t help but break into a smile afterward.
Aug. 12 at Padres
Catch probability: 20%
Distance needed: 112 feet
Opportunity time: 5.9 seconds
Another five-star catch for Kiermaier, and this one was pretty impressive. Petco Park has one of the most expansive outfields in the Majors, but Kiermaier somehow made this play look average. Statcast projected Francisco Mejía’s batted ball would have been a home run in 16 of the 30 Major League ballparks, but Kiermaier robbed him on this play.
Sept. 29 at Blue Jays
Catch probability: 25%
Distance needed: 76 feet
Opportunity time: 4.2 seconds
Kiermaier’s third five-star catch came on the final day of the regular season. He had another great jump on this play -- 6 1/2 feet above average -- which allowed him to get to the ball in time.
May 27 vs. Blue Jays
This marked one of the signature catches of Kiermaier’s season. Rowdy Tellez had an expected batting average of .720 on this play, but Kiermaier ran 85 feet before timing his jump perfectly, robbing Tellez at the wall. Kiermaier crashed into the wall and it looked like he recreated NBA legend Michael Jordan’s “Jumpman” logo. After the play, Kiermaier pointed to the Platinum tag on his glove, reminding Tommy Pham and the rest of us that he’s one of the game’s elite center fielders.
Aug. 10 at Mariners
Former Rays outfielder Mallex Smith got a chance to watch Kiermaier rob opposing hitters, but on this night, he also got to experience how it feels to be on the other side of the ball. Smith put a good swing on a Charlie Morton fastball, but Kiermaier traveled 102 feet to rob his former teammate. Smith had a .630 expected batting average on the play.
Sept. 8 vs. Blue Jays
Kiermaier’s stellar defensive season against the Blue Jays continued on this play. The Rays’ center fielder showed off his speed -- reaching 29.5 ft./sec. -- and added a 6 1/2-foot jump to cap it off. Kiermaier covered 76 feet in just 4.2 seconds. Because of that, Kiermaier barely had to leave his feet on the play, which would’ve been required for most center fielders.
May 22 vs. Dodgers
Kiermaier’s catches steal the show, but his throws from the position are what ultimately separate him from the rest. Kiermaier talks about having a shortstop’s arm in a center fielder’s body, and he certainly displayed that here. Cody Bellinger sprinted up to 29.1 ft./sec. as he barreled home, but Kiermaier threw a 100.6-mph missile to home plate to beat him home. It was the third hardest outfield assist tracked by Statcast in 2019.
Rawlings Gold Glove Award voting consists of two components: 75 percent of the vote comes from managers and up to six coaches on each staff (who can’t vote for a player on their own team), and 25 percent comes from statistical analysis in collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
Fans can now vote for their favorite defender from each league to help determine who will win the AL and NL Platinum Glove Awards. Voting is open at rawlings.com until 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday. Winners will be announced Friday, live on the Rawlings Facebook page.
Kiermaier and Giants third baseman Evan Longoria (2009, ’10, ’17) are the only two to win multiple Gold Glove Awards while with the Rays. Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (‘12), left fielder Carl Crawford (‘10) and first baseman Carlos Peña (‘08) each won one.