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MLB and Rawlings announce 2018 Gold Glove finalists

The finalists for MLB’s most prestigious defensive awards were announced on Thursday.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball and Rawlings announced the finalists for the 2018 American League and National League Gold Glove Awards on Thursday afternoon.

Here are this year’s nominees, with reaction at each position:

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

Never say the Gold Glove voters don’t respect the metrics — Greinke and Teheran were tied for the lead in defensive runs saved among big-league pitchers this season with seven each. Richard had five while throwing 17 innings fewer than Teheran and 49 fewer than Greinke. Without ever having actually paid close attention to his defense, Richard for some reason just looks like a pitcher who would win a Gold Glove. Greinke won the award for four straight years from 2014-17 and seems likely to win it again this year.

Pitcher, AL: Dallas Keuchel (Astros), Corey Kluber (Indians), Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees)

Despite pitching only 156 innings, Tanaka tied with Greinke and Teheran for the lead in pitcher defensive runs saved with seven. Keuchel and Kluber, meanwhile, had three each. Keuchel is a three-time Gold Glove winner and figures to have a solid shot at repeating this year.

Catcher, NL: Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Manny Piña (Brewers), Buster Posey (Giants)

While Molina and Posey have historically been great defenders and continue to be very reliable behind the dish, this list is somewhat of a testament to how bad catcher defense was in the NL this year. Molina did a great job of working with a young pitching staff and started 120 games despite spending a month on the DL following a gruesome shot to the groin, though he had -1 defensive runs saved (which, to be fair, is a metric that isn’t exceptionally reliable for catchers) this year. Posey was fantastic behind the plate and had 10 defensive runs saved and guided a pitching staff of has-beens and unheralded rookies to success, but he started just 85 games at catcher and missed the last five weeks of the season. Piña had two DL stints and was part of a platoon — first with Jett Bandy, then with Erik Kratz — all year, so it was a bit surprising to see him as a nominee. The fact that he threw out 41 percent of base stealers may help him out, though. While he was limited by injuries this year and spent more than a month on the DL, it’s somewhat surprising that Padres catcher Austin Hedges didn’t make this list, as he had 12 defensive runs saved and has developed into one of the best defensive backstops in the majors.

Catcher, AL: Yan Gomes (Indians), Martin Maldonado (Angels/Astros), Salvador Perez (Royals)

Maldonado probably has the edge here as the reigning Gold Glover, as he threw out a majors-best 49 percent of base stealers this year. Gomes is probably the second-best defensive catcher on his own team behind Roberto Perez, and other than the fact that he played 948.2 innings and worked well with a great pitching staff, there’s not really a particular metric that backs up his candidacy. Salvador Perez is a four-time Gold Glove winner, played 831 innings after missing the first month of the season, and threw out 48 percent of base stealers this year, so he also has a solid shot of adding to his trophy case.

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

Rizzo and Votto each have a Gold Glove already, while Freeman hasn’t yet won one. Among the three, Freeman ranked best in terms of the metrics, finishing with 12 defensive runs saved. This announcement means that the Giants’ Brandon Belt, who finished with a league-best 13 DRS, will go another year without winning a Gold Glove, while the Padres’ Eric Hosmer — who won four Gold Gloves in Kansas City — won’t win one in his first year with the Padres.

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

Moreland, who won one in 2016, is the only member of this trio with a previous Gold Glove — as mentioned earlier, Hosmer, has largely been holding down this award in recent years. Olson led the majors with 14 defensive runs saved, and neither Moreland or Olson was even close to matching him in that category.

Second base, NL: Javier Baez (Cubs), DJ Lemahieu (Rockies), Kolten Wong (Cardinals)

This one will perhaps be the most interesting Gold Glove battle this year. Though Baez has developed a reputation as baseball’s most exciting defensive infielder, he was more of a utility player than second baseman this year, starting 75 games (including just four in September) at second, 52 at short, and 18 at third this year. The metrics don’t indicate that he was particularly good at any of those positions either — the most defensive runs saved he collected at any one position was five at second base, and he was mediocre in terms of range at all three spots. The rules state that a multi-position player like Baez is to be nominated at the position where he played the most — which is second — but even if he had been outstanding defensively this year, it’d feel odd giving him the award at a position where he only started 75 games.

Wong, meanwhile, may have been the best fielder in baseball in 2018, collecting 19 defensive runs saved (sixth among all major-leaguers) with a UZR/150 of 17.6 (fourth in MLB). But a pair of injuries limited him to just 896.2 innings, and perhaps that won’t be enough. Lemahieu was also extremely good, collecting 18 defensive runs saved with a UZR/150 of 12.5 while playing 218 innings more than Wong and 415 more than Baez at second, so he might end up being the guy who ultimately comes away with the award.

Second base, AL: Ian Kinsler (Angels/Red Sox), Jed Lowrie (Athletics), Rougned Odor (Rangers)

Odor, who was once considered to be a poor defender, has now grown his game to the point where he led the AL with 11 defensive runs saved this year and may be the favorite for this award. Kinsler, who had 10 DRS while displaying superior range, should also be a strong candidate.

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

I could get into deep detail about all these candidates, but would it really matter when Arenado has won five straight Gold Gloves and is widely considered to be one of the 5-10 best defenders ever to play the position? Though he did collect nine defensive runs saved at third, it is somewhat curious to see Shaw among the finalists when he spent most of the last two months of the season playing second base.

Third base, AL: Alex Bregman (Astros), Matt Chapman (Astros), Jose Ramirez (Indians)

This contest likely won’t be close either, as Chapman will likely be the Platinum Glove winner after collecting a majors-best 29 defensive runs saved. Considering his outstanding legacy, it’s somewhat surprising that five-time Gold Glover Adrian Beltre isn’t a finalist in perhaps his final season after posting 10 defensive runs saved over 587 innings at third.

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

Crawford, the three-time Gold Glover, seemed like the favorite for this award at the All-Star break, but a horrid second half both at the plate and in the field may open the door for a very deserving Ahmed to win his first Gold Glove. Though Ahmed’s range isn’t quite as good as it once was after hip surgery two years ago, he collected 21 defensive runs saved, which tied with Andrelton Simmons for best among MLB shortstops and second among all major-leaguers. Galvis was extremely solid and durable, starting all 162 games — 157 at short and another five at second. Though he missed time due to injury, it’s surprising that the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong — who finished second among NL shortstops in DRS (14) and best among NL qualifiers in DRS (9.3) — miss the cut for this award.

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

Simmons is the runaway favorite for this award (which would be his fourth Gold Glove), having collected 21 defensive runs saved with a ridiculous 19.5 UZR/150. Lindor was also very good, posting 14 DRS with a 13.4 UZR/150. It’s impressive to see Semien, who played primarily at third base before being traded to Oakland and made 35 errors in his first year with the A’s, work his way into being a Gold Glove finalist (with that said, he still made 20 errors this year, so perhaps we’re just taking that stat less seriously than we ever have before.)

Left field, NL: Corey Dickerson (Pirates), Adam Duvall (Reds/Braves), Christian Yelich (Brewers)

Dickerson, who was considered by many to be a defensive liability who was limited to DH when the Rays designated him for assignment in February, made an impressive statement defensively in his first season as a National League player since 2015. Over 1,057.1 innings, he had 16 defensive runs saved while posting an exceptional 11.9 UZR/150. Duvall, who started only 77 games in the outfield this year and just nine after being traded to Atlanta on July 30, is a curious choice here. He was efficient in limited innings, though, collecting 17 DRS in 766.1 innings. Yelich saw action at all three outfield positions this year, starting 63 in left, 68 in right, and 12 in center. He wasn’t particularly excellent at any position, but as a former Gold Glover and the likely NL MVP, it’s not surprising to see him nominated.

Left field, AL: Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox), Brett Gardner (Yankees), Alex Gordon (Royals)

Gordon, a five-time Gold Glover and the best defensive left fielder of this generation, is likely to add to his trophy cabinet again for a second straight year. He posted 18 DRS, which ranked best among major-league left fielders, along with a 15.8 UZR/150 that ranked best among big-leaguers who qualified at the position. Though neither Benintendi or Gardner distinguished themselves nearly as much as Gordon during the regular season, Benintendi has probably boosted his candidacy in fans’ eyes with a series of outstanding defensive plays during the postseason.

Center field, NL: Lorenzo Cain (Brewers), Billy Hamilton (Reds), Ender Inciarte (Braves)

Cain, who incredibly led all NL outfielders with 20 defensive runs saved at the age of 32, is the odds-on favorite for this award. Inciarte — the two-time reigning winner in center — also graded out very well in terms of the metrics, collecting 17 DRS with a 7.4 UZR/150, while Hamilton’s speed and the excitment and energy with which he plays likely helped his case. Considering that Yelich was nominated despite playing all across the outfield this year, it’s rather stunning that Cardinals rookie Harrison Bader wasn’t nominated. Even after he hit a bit of a wall in September, Bader finished with 19 defensive runs saved between all three positions, which ranked fourth among all major-league outfielders, while leading NL outfielders with a 17.2 UZR/150. Perhaps he was hurt by the fact that he was a fourth outfielder for most of the first half and played several hundred innings fewer than the other nominees.

Center field, AL: Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox), Adam Engel (White Sox), Mike Trout (Angels)

The competition for this award frankly was not nearly as exciting as it’s been in recent years, as perennial favorite Kevin Kiermaier was limited to 88 starts due to injuries, defensive specialist Jake Marisnick spent time in the minors due to his struggles at the plate, and age evidently began to take its toll on Kevin Pillar. With both JBJ and Engel having had rather unspectacular seasons in the field, Trout’s reputation (and relatively strong production — he had eight defensive runs saved and a 5.6 UZR/150) may be enough to win him his first Gold Glove in a watered-down field. Considering that Duvall was nominated despite a serious lack of innings and Yelich was nominated despite moving all over the place, it’s somewhat of a travesty that the Tigers’ JaCoby Jones didn’t make the cut. While starting 65 games in center and 52 in left this year, Jones led all major-league outfielders in defensive runs saved (21) and ranked third among all qualifiers in UZR/150 (14.8).

Right field, NL: Jason Heyward (Cubs), Jon Jay (Diamondbacks), Nick Markakis (Braves)

Heyward, who has won four straight NL Gold Gloves in right field and five overall, seems very likely to win again this year based on reputation, despite the fact that the metrics deemed him to be just slightly above average this year. Markakis, who won two Gold Gloves during his time with the Orioles, also has a chance to win his third award despite the metrics looking somewhat unfavorably upon him this year. His durability (160 starts) likely helps him out. While he has virtually no chance of winning, Jay — who has historically been regarded as an average-at-best defender — is probably the most surprising nominee of the day, as he played all across the outfield and was essentially a fourth outfielder after being traded to Arizona in June.

Right field, AL: Mookie Betts (Red Sox), Kole Calhoun (Angels), Aaron Judge (Yankees)

Betts seems like a lock to win his third straight Gold Glove after collecting 20 defensive runs saved this year and posting a majors-best 21.0 UZR/150. Judge would have been a fantastic candidate (14 DRS, 14.1 UZR/150) but likely doesn’t have a serious shot after missing most of the final two months of the season with a wrist injury. Though he was one of the worst hitters in the majors during the first half, Calhoun was solid in right field all year long, finishing with seven DRS.