MLB’s 25 Most Improved Players Prospects for 2016 Momentum

#12. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays

2015 WAR: 7.3
2014 WAR: 3.6
WAR Improvement: 3.7

It wasn’t Kevin Kiermaier’s bat that made him so valuable to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. His .718 OPS was actually a below-average mark, as he struggled immensely to draw walks or hit for much power.

Instead, the outfielder thrived on defense and when stealing bases. Eighteen of his 23 attempts at thievery were successful, and his defensive WAR left everyone else in the dust.

Of Kiermaier’s 7.3 WAR, 5.0 came with his glove during a season in which Andrelton Simmons had the league’s No. 2 mark (3.5). In fact, Simmons, Brandon Crawford (2.9), Nick Ahmed (2.8), Kevin Pillar (2.8), Ender Inciarte (2.6), Addison Russell (2.6) and Ian Kinsler (2.6) were the only players to provide half as much value as the 25-year-old did in the field.

Kiermaier is certainly young enough to continue speeding around the outfield and catching everything in sight. He’s also got one heck of an arm, hitting 100 mph out of the outfield nine times during the 2015 season. Only 14 other players hit triple digits even once, and none did so more often than Carlos Gomez (five times).

But 5.0 defensive WAR still seems like something that can’t quite be matched. Perhaps that’s because, throughout all of MLB history, only Kiermaier, Simmons (5.4 in 2013), Art Fletcher (5.1 in 1917) and Terry Turner (5.4 in 1906) have ever reached that level.