The two months Kevin Kiermaier missed due to a broken left hand significantly magnified his value to the Rays given their struggles without him roaming centerfield.
With voting for the Gold Glove Awards to be announced tonight (8, ESPN), now the question is how much the 48 missed games will devalue his chances to win a second straight trophy for defensive excellence.
The award is determined primarily on the voting of American League coaches and managers, plus a sabermetric component that accounts for about 25 percent of the process.
Both the words of baseball insiders, including several voters, and the numbers, such as a centerfielders-best 25 defensive runs saved, indicate Kiermaier has good reason to clear space for another.
Kiermaier, always confident in his skills, is hopeful of making this catch.
"I hope I get enough (votes). … I hope I did enough. I'm sure lost time isn't going to help my cause by any means," Kiermaier said. "I'm not trying to come off as cocky or anything like that, but I just know that I'm the best defensive centerfielder in all of baseball. I always try to stay realistic with the things that come out of my mouth, and I think that's very fair to say that, and I have a lot of confidence in myself.
"I know what I can do out there, and I feel like no one else in baseball controls the game the way I do out there defensively with range, arm strength, accuracy, instincts and game awareness. I just don't think anyone else can do what I can do out there, and that's my case for me winning it. But it doesn't matter what I think. … I hope my name is called upon. We'll find out."
If Kiermaier is chosen ahead of Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. and Toronto's Kevin Pillar, the other finalists, he will join Ichiro Suzuki as the only AL outfielders to win in their first two full seasons. Kiermaier also would join third baseman Evan Longoria as the only Rays to win multiple Gold Gloves. Last year, Kiermaier also won the Platinum Glove as the best defender at any position.
The Gold Glove could be one of two postseason achievements for Kiermaier; he should find out soon if he has enough service time to qualify for Super 2 arbitration, which could get him a raise to around $3 million in what would be the first of four years of eligibility rather than the standard three.
Times staff writer Roger Mooney contributed to this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.