|by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com|
(1/21/14) Most prospects garner recognition in the minors because of the offensive numbers they produce, but not every case is like that. In the case of Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, he's built his reputation on defense.
"In our opinion, Kevin Kiermaier might be the best defensive outfielder in our organization, at any level," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told MLB.com. "He is fearless, gets tremendous jumps, runs well and has a great arm."
Kiermaier had his best season offensively in 2013, batting .295 with a .362 on-base percentage, six home runs, 15 triples, 21 doubles, 21 stolen bases and 89 runs in 136 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
"I think the difference I've seen in the last couple of years is his ability to recognize pitches earlier," said Michael Johns, who was Kiermaier's first manager at Rookie League Princeton. "That's the biggest thing. Now he's starting to drive the ball. He's doing the things that will keep you in the major leagues a long time. He's one of those guys who is really fun to watch."
Kiermaier will be vying for a spot on the major-league roster this spring. Even if he opens the year in the minors, the Rays like his long-term outlook.
"His offense really came on this year as well, and if that continues, he can be an everyday player in the big leagues," Friedman said. "There are still some things Kevin needs to refine, but we're excited about his future."