MLB

An analysis of Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove finalists

Defense wins championships!

Major League Baseball released the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove awards and they are full of close races. Defense has become an overlooked aspect of baseball in recent years, but yet there are still many fantastic defensive players in the game today.

Pitcher

Al Finalists: Corey Kluber (Indians), Dallas Keuchel (Astros), Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees

NL Finalists: Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks), Clayton Richard (Padres), Julio Teheran (Braves)

Pitchers find themselves in a tough position to judge on defensive ability. It’s a close race that could go anyway, but look for Zack Greinke and Dallas Keuchel to win again, however, as they would be repeat winners and are favored by the BBWAA.

Greinke who would win his fifth straight Gold Glove Award would then tie three other pitchers (Ron Guidry, Phil Niekro, and Kenny Rogers) for seventh most all-time, putting him in an impressive class of defensive hurlers. Keuchel would be set to win his fourth Gold Glove in five years, putting him in a similar class with Greinke. The Baseball Writer’s Association loves Keuchel for his ability to produce and field the ground ball, as he had the highest groundball rate in all of baseball at 53.7 percent.

Catcher

AL Finalists: Salvador Perez (Royals), Yan Gomes (Indians), Martin Maldonado (Astros)

NL Finalists: Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Buster Posey (Giants), Manny Pina (Brewers)

In my humble opinion, this position is a runaway in both leagues. Yadier Molina is far and away the best defensive catcher of his generation, and will continue this legacy with another Gold Glove. His ability to call a game behind the plate is a characteristic that may someday enshrine him in Cooperstown.

Buster Posey, another possible Hall of Famer, is a fantastic defensive catcher, but Molina is in a class of his own. For Manny Pina, it was a good year but he will not beat two Hall-of-Fame-level backstops.

Similarly, in the American League, Salvador Perez is on his own in terms of defense behind the plate. While Yan Gomes is great with the pitching staff in Cleveland, and Martin Maldonado is fantastic at controlling the running game, Perez is the complete package and should not be challenged for this year’s Gold Glove.

1st Base

AL Finalists: Mitch Moreland (Red Sox), Matt Olson (Athletics), Justin Smoak (Blue Jays)

NL Finalists: Freddie Freeman (Braves), Anthony Rizzo (Cubs), Joey Votto (Reds)

First base is a toss-up in both leagues, but for different reasons. In the American League, it’s a battle of the mediocre, all are good defensive players, yet none stand out as a clear winner. Moreland is a past Gold Glove winner, the only one in the group, but did not seem quite as elite defensively this season. Justin Smoak and Matt Olson are both possible first-time winners, look for one of them, specifically Olson, to steal the award from Moreland.

In the National League, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Freeman, Rizzo, and Votto are all elite defenders at the top of their craft.

If I had to choose a winner, I would go with Votto just based on the fact that he is an analytical darling and in today’s BBWAA that can put you over the top. Still, Freeman and Rizzo could both easily win the award as well.

2nd Base

AL Finalists: Jed Lowrie (Athletics), Ian Kinsler (Red Sox), Rougned Odor (Rangers)

NL Finalists: Javier Baez (Cubs), DJ LeMahieu (Rockies), Kolten Wong (Cardinals)  

A close race in the American League could go to anyone, as all are solid and crafty defenders. However, Ian Kinsler has looked like he’s lost a step and has been lazy and sloppy since his trade to Boston. Jed Lowrie is just not a flashy player, despite his under-the-radar defensive ability. Look for Rougned Odor to win the award, as the writers seem to lean toward the more flashy defenders, especially at second base.

On a comparable note in the National League, Javier Baez is about as flashy as it gets. While LeMahieu and Wong are both above average defenders, Baez is considered by many to be the best at his position. Look for him to run away with this award.

Shortstop

AL Finalists: Francisco Lindor (Indians), Marcus Semien (Athletics), Andrelton Simmons(Angels)

NL Finalists: Nick Ahmed (Diamondbacks), Brandon Crawford (Giants), Freddy Galvis (Padres)

Despite the incredible defensive ability of Francisco Lindor and the solid reliability of Marcus Semien, look for Andrelton Simmons to win the award. Simmons, a three-time winner in the past, continued to impress this year for the Angels. He is both flashy and consistent, a combination that should give him the edge in winning his fourth Gold Glove.

In the National League, both Ahmed and Galvis had great years for their respective teams, but Brandon Crawford is far above them in terms of defensive ability. Crawford, similar to Simmons, has been so consistent defensively and would have a chance to win his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. Look for him to do so.

3rd Base

AL Finalists: Alex Bregman (Astros), Matt Chapman (Athletics), Jose Ramirez (Indians)

NL Finalists: Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Anthony Rendon (Nationals), Travis Shaw (Brewers)

Nolan Arenado is the best defensive third baseman in baseball and it isn’t close. It’s hard to find a day in which Nolan Arenado is not involved in some sort of highlight reel for his defensive ability, and he should win the award in the National League unanimously.

In the American  League, however, it should be somewhat of a tighter race. Alex Bregman showed his amazing defensive ability not only in the regular season, but the postseason as well. In the ALCS against the Red Sox, it became almost impossible to get a hit on the left side of the infield due to the outrageous range of Bregman.

Jose Ramirez, also a fantastic defensive player, may be in over his head as both Bregman and Chapman are elite defenders at third base. Chapman, turned a lot of heads this season with the Athletics, and even created some MVP chatter for himself through his clutch hitting. It’s a tough one to decide between Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman, but I’ll roll with Bregman.

Left Field

AL Finalists: Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox), Brett Gardner (Yankees), Alex Gordon (Royals)
NL Finalists: Corey Dickerson (Pirates), Adam  Duvall (Braves), Christian Yelich (Brewers)

Andrew Benintendi showed us once again Wednesday night why he is one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. A leaping catch to rob Brian Dozier of a possible double added to his already immense highlight reel, which includes a game-saving catch in the ALCS as well. Benintendi also led the American League in outfield assists this season with 12. While Gardner and Gordon (both former winners) are adequate defenders, Benintendi showed this year that he is a next level defender. Bank on him winning the Gold Glove in the American League.

The National League does not quite have a defender at the level of the American League finalists. However, Christian Yelich had an incredible year in all aspects of the game, including defensively. This award could go either way but with all the hype that Yelich is getting, I would expect him to win the award in left field.

Center Field

AL Finalists: Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox), Mike Trout (Angels), Adam Engel (White Sox)
NL Finalists: Lorenzo Cain (Brewers), Billy Hamilton (Reds), Ender Inciarte (Braves)

Cain, Hamilton and Inciarte are all solid defenders, they anchor and lead their respective outfields. In a tight race, I like Ender Inciarte to win the award this year, Inciarte made both the young Ronald Acuna and the elder Nick Markakis (a finalist in right field) look better solely based off the range he covers in center field.

In the American League, Adam Engel made a flurry of highlight-reel, home run-robbing catches this year. However, this is a two horse race between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mike Trout – two of the best defenders in all of baseball, at any position. Bradley can cover a ridiculous amount of ground and has a crazy arm, same as Trout. The fact that neither of these outfielders are previous winners is borderline shocking. I predict that Jackie Bradley will end up winning the award.

Right Field

AL Finalists: Mookie Betts (Red Sox), Aaron Judge (Yankees), Kole Calhoun (Angels)
NL Finalists: Jason Heyward (Cubs), Jon Jay (Diamondbacks), Nick Markakis (Braves)

Yes, I am serious, the Red Sox outfield will sweep the Gold Glove awards and Mookie Betts, widely considered the best right fielder in the game, will win his third consecutive Gold Glove. It should not be close at this position, while Judge and Calhoun are good defenders, Mookie Betts is on a different level as he has shown us time and time again.

In the National League, I could see this award going to any of the three finalists, although Jason Heyward has won four in a row and five of the last six. It should be interesting to see how the writers vote, but my prediction is Heyward for the National League.  

 

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