PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Given all that Kevin Kiermaier has accomplished in a short period of time, talk of him having a breakout season seems absurd.However, the idea of his bat catching up to his glove justifies that consideration.Everybody is familiar with Kiermaier's defensive skills -- he leaps tall buildings
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Given all that Kevin Kiermaier has accomplished in a short period of time, talk of him having a breakout season seems absurd.
However, the idea of his bat catching up to his glove justifies that consideration.
Everybody is familiar with Kiermaier's defensive skills -- he leaps tall buildings in a single bound to take away home runs. But his offensive work has been unheralded for the most part.
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Based on Kiermaier's athleticism and some of the indicators, that is subject to change this season, making him the complete player he's seemingly been destined to be all along.
Kiermaier posted a .263/.298/.420 slash line in 2015. Add to that 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and 18 stolen bases, and one can see an emerging offensive player. A right thumb injury late last season could well be the reason he enjoys an offensive epiphany in '16, since Kiermaier put up a .311/.352/.480 line after Aug. 11.
"When the Mets came into town [in August] and I hurt my thumb, I was so much better from there on out," said Kiermaier. "I finally figured out what I want to do with my approach and my swing.
"... The last two months of the season, I went with a less-is-more approach. I cut down on the strikeouts. I had much better at-bats and I was just so happy about how everything unfolded. I just told myself, 'I'm going to learn from this, what happened with my thumb. And I'm going to take this and use it for the rest of my career.' Anytime you can learn from something like that and use it to your advantage, it's going to help you."
Kiermaier chuckled while noting that manager Kevin Cash and bench coach Tom Foley both threatened to take a hammer to his thumb in the future so he would continue to adhere to the same offensive approach.
Kiermaier believes his offense is evolving. As a result, he can't hide his excitement.
"I know that I'm going to be so much better this year," Kiermaier said. "Even though my numbers didn't show it [in 2015], compared to my rookie year, I was so much better -- as far as handling breaking balls and hitting with runners in scoring position -- because that's something I didn't do in 2014. I was very happy with the steps I took offensively [in 2015]."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.