For the second consecutive season, a fateful slide into a base will sideline the Tampa Bay Rays defensive center piece in the outfield. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who last season fractured his hip on a slide into first base, is expected to miss eight-to-12 weeks after he sustained a thumb injury on a slide into second base.
The torn ligament in his right thumb, which he'll undergo surgery for this week, serves as a massive blow for a team that already seemed destined to hang around the bottom of the MLB standings this season.
From an offensive perspective, losing Kiermaier's bat serves as a major blow to an already weak lineup. As of Monday, Tampa Bay ranked amongst the lowest of all teams in nearly every category offensively.
The Rays are 23rd in wRC+ (82), 25th in wOBA (.283), 27th in runs scored (48) and hard-hit rate (27.7 percent), 28th in isolated power (.096), 29th in slugging percentage (.320). Now without Kiermaier, who posted a .276/.338/.450 slash and 112 wRC+ last season, Tampa Bay's lineup will likely struggle even more to produce.
Of even greater significance is the loss of Kiermaier defensively for Tampa Bay. O Tampa Bay's starting pitchers, Chris Archer and Yonny Chirinos could most notice the impact of Kiermaier's absence. Both players surrender contact to center field more than 29 percent of the time this season.
Mallex Smith, who could most often be the choice to fill in at center field for Tampa Bay, offers plenty of speed to cover all parts of the outfielder and gives the Rays plenty of range. Unfortunately, Smith's arm and instincts are below average and will prove to be a significant negative for the team.
For fantasy owners, a potential absence until July makes Kiermaier droppable. Even when he returns, the opportunities for run production will be low and the power/speed numbers aren't enough to hang onto him in leagues with 12 or fewer teams.