CHICAGO -- Kevin Kiermaier is the American League's reigning Gold Glove winner in center field and hopes to make it two years in a row despite missing significant time due to a broken left hand.
"I would like think so," Kiermaier said when asked if he thought he still had a chance to win the award. "It's an award that means a lot to me. I feel like the time that I have been out on the field, I'm the best center fielder in the game. I firmly believe that. But at the same time, when I broke my hand, I know that missing an extended amount of time isn't going to help my chances by any means. I hope my name is at least mentioned."
According to FanGraphs, Kiermaier's 24 Defensive Runs Saved (in 850 1/3 innings) as a center fielder is first in the Major Leagues ahead of Toronto's Kevin Pillar (20 in 1,258 innings).
How valuable is Kiermaier? The Rays have gone just 19-40 in games that he did not play in this season.
Kiermaier allowed that getting hurt could hurt his chances for repeating.
"Like I said, that award meant so much to me," Kiermaier said. "I don't know, I guess we'll wait and see who the nominees are whenever that's announced. But I hope I'm mentioned. At the same time, if I'm not, I understand you have to be on the field every day. Maybe the coaches and managers will see otherwise. I'm wishfully thinking that."
Despite playing in fewer games, Kiermaier feels as though he got better in 2016.
"I felt like I've taken more control of the outfield, whether it's handling my corner guys or certain game situations when to not try and make a throw, things like that, I've improved this year and I feel like I've really established myself as the leader of that outfield," he said.
If his manager Kevin Cash could pick the winner, there would be no contest.
"I think he should win the Gold Glove, not could," Cash said. "He's the best defensive player in baseball. ... He's pretty special out there."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.