Gold Glove Finalists: Catcher

Major League Baseball has announced the Gold Glove finalists at each position. There are some intriguing options to choose from at all positions in each league, as well as some slam dunk picks. The field has been narrowed down to three for each position, but it needs to be narrowed down to one in the end. This series will look at both the National League and American League for all positions. The next position to be looked at is catchers. 

The catcher is arguably the most important defensive position on the field. Tasked with throwing runners out and helping to call a game, catchers do a lot to keep a game, and game plan moving. There is a reason why most teams opt for the best defensive catchers and worry about their offense later.

It needs to be said again, a Gold Glove is not always won based on defensive statistics. But it is also important to look at the offensive statistics while trying to evaluate and figure out who might be a good candidate to receive a Gold Glove award.

American League

The three finalists for the Gold Glove on the American League side consists of a good mix of youth and experience. Rookie Danny Jansen of the Toronto Blue Jays, Christian Vazquez of the Boston Red Sox, and Roberto Pérez of the Cleveland Indians are the finalists for the award.

Jansen established himself as a great defensive catcher in his first year. The 24-year-old rookie was downright impressive behind the dish with 12 defensive runs saved — second-most in the AL. He was also able to catch 31% of would-be base stealers. As a result, his 19 runners thrown out stealing ranks eighth in all of MLB.

Pérez is known for his defensive prowess, and he is the only AL catcher better than Jansen in defensive runs saved, with a whopping 29. He caught runners stealing an astonishing 41% of the time. His 20 base stealers caught ranks him seventh in the entirety of MLB. He had fewer attempts against him than Jansen, but that shows the respect runners have for his arm. 

Vazquez, unlike his competition, might be one of the best catchers behind the plate with pitch framing. FanGraphs has his framing stat listed at 12.4, which is fourth in MLB and a significant margin between him and Pérez. Pitch framing is considered something that only a few catchers can do very well, and Vasquez is one of them. He is no slouch at throwing runners out, either, as he caught 38% of them.

Prediction: Pérez should walk away with this one. He is the most well rounded of the three and is a very highly regarded catcher.

National League

The National League boasts some of the best defensive catchers in the game. That means when the finalists are Austin Hedges of the San Diego Padres, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, and J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies, you know you’re getting great defense behind the dish.

Hedges is known for his defensive prowess. He is a natural at framing. His FanGraphs number sits at 20.7, which is by far the best in MLB. Hedges is second to Pérez in all of MLB in defensive runs saved, with 20. He only caught 12 would-be base stealers, but his 33% in that category means he is still well above average.

Molina has long been lauded for his defensive artistry behind the dish. However, it is one of the choices of the Gold Glove awards that are head-scratching at times. He is here on name alone, as he has won nine Gold Gloves in his career. But in 2019, he only has two defensive runs saved this year. Throwing out 27% of would-be base stealers is also a paltry sum compared to the others in this list.

Realmuto has established himself as one of the best catchers in the game on both sides of the ball. Runners, however, haven’t quite figured it out. He caught 43 of a whopping 92 runners trying to steal. That’s good for a 47% rate that led the league. He ranks sixth in the league in defensive runs saved and is considered top ten in framing pitches as well.

Prediction: JT Realmuto will capture his first Gold Glove, especially given how poorly Molina has played this year.

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