ST. PETERSBURG — Most of the time, Kevin Kiermaier really is a humble guy true to his Midwestern roots. Except when it comes to his performance on the baseball field, specifically patrolling centerfield for the Rays.
"Before this season I said I truly think I'm the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball," Kiermaier said Monday. "And I think I proved the case this year."
Indeed, Kiermaier caught almost every ball within reach during a season-long performance that by any measure — from seeing to believing sabermetric assessments — ranked as spectacular.
But the gold standard is the Gold Glove, and the Rays standout will find out tonight (7, ESPN2) if he caught the attention of the American League coaches and managers who do the voting.
"The anticipation has been killing me," Kiermaier said Monday afternoon. "I just want it to be over to be honest so I can just see what happened."
Kiermaier is considered the favorite to win the award over finalists Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays and Mike Trout of the Angels based on what he did on the field and how he did it, combining speed, athleticism, instincts and aggressiveness, plus a rifle arm.
Already, Kiermaier has won the Fielding Bible award (determined by vote and statistics), rang up a record total of 42 Defensive Runs Saved in one of the more common defensive metrics and had a significant lead in SABR Defensive Index that accounts for about 25 percent of the Gold Gove selection process in addition to the voting.
Teammates gush about him, media rave and opponents openly offer praise.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi shared that during batting practice his players sometimes stage a game based on whether certain balls would be caught by Kiermaier. Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele came up to Kiermaier to personally tell him how much of a headache he is to their staff.
"It should be a no-brainer," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Kiermaier, 25, was open during the season about how much winning a Gold Glove would mean, and how badly he wanted to win it.
Monday, he said he felt he made his case for gold — and more.
" I truly just feel like as a whole no one can run down balls like I can and throw the way I can and get the reads that I get," Kiermaier said. "I just think as a whole I have the best skill set of any outfielder.
"I hate talking like this because it just makes me feel big-headed about it. But this is one thing that I have so much confidence in my game and I truly feel like I do it better than any outfielder in the game. And I mean that 100 percent. I would not take anyone's tools out there over mine."
Kiermaier would be the fifth Ray to win a Gold Glove, joining third baseman Evan Longoria (who has two and is a finalist this year), leftfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Peña and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.