We’re a little more than two months into the season, so let’s take an early look at the Fielding Bible Award contenders for 2023.
This will be our 18th year selecting the top defensive player at each position (plus a multi-position winner).
I’ll focus on up-the-middle players in this writeup and then do a version covering the corner spots in another writeup.
This position’s leaders in Defensive Runs Saved are 3 names you probably wouldn’t have expected at the start of the year – Cam Gallagher, Francisco Álvarez, and Seby Zavala.
But let’s break this race down to 3 of the key component parts
(which you can find here)
Top catchers in …
T1. Francisco Alvarez, William Contreras, Austin Hedges
- Elias Díaz and Gabriel Moreno
3. Connor Wong
- Nick Fortes
- J.T. Realmuto
- Cam Gallagher
Ha-Seong Kim is looking like a player who could win both the Fielding Bible Award at 2nd base and the award for multi-position excellence. With 10 Runs Saved at 2nd Base, he has twice as many as Marcus Semien, Andrés Giménez, Thairo Estrada and Maurico Dubon.
Key stat for Kim: He has 8 Plays Saved on balls hit to his right, most of any second baseman despite ranking 16th in opportunities on balls hit to his right (Plays Saved is our version of Outs Above Average – we’ve tracked it since 2003).
– Andrés Giménez has the second-most Runs Saved at 2B since the start of 2022.
– Marcus Semien has the MOST Runs Saved at 2B since the beginning of 2021.
– Thairo Estrada totaled -12 Runs Saved at 2nd base last season, but is +5 in 2023
– Mauricio Dubon has 10 Runs Saved at 2B in ~750 career innings
(MLB-leader caliber if pro-rated as a full season).
The top spot in Defensive Runs Saved is held by Wander Franco (Rays).
Key stat: Franco is the only current shortstop who rates at least 4 Plays Saved both on balls hit both to his left AND to his right (again, ‘Plays Saved’ is our version of OAA).
It does similar for Dansby Swanson, who ranks 2nd among SS in Runs Saved (he goes from T-15th in Offensive WAR to 5th in Position Player WAR because of his defense).
Ten shortstops have at least 4 Runs Saved, including last year’s Gold Glove winners (Dansby Swanson and Jeremy Peña), and the Fielding Bible Award winner (Jorge Mateo). We’ve also seen strong shortstop defense from three rookies in this group of 10 – Ezequiel Tovar, Anthony Volpe, and Zach Neto.
Kevin Kiermaier (Blue Jays), who was just named Co-Defensive Player of the Month for May, is the leader here with 12 Defensive Runs Saved. He is also the runaway leader in Runs Saved as a CF since the stat was first tracked in 2004.
Kiermaier previously won the Fielding Bible Award in 2015 and 2020 and is trying to be the first player to receive the award as a center fielder three times.
He currently leads center fielders in both the Range component of Defensive Runs Saved AND the throwing component.
Luis Robert Jr. is Kiermaier’s closest contender with 10 Runs Saved. Robert Jr.’s total is boosted by 2 HR robberies. He and Aaron Judge lead MLB in that stat.
Jake Meyers may also be positioned to make a run. His 6 Runs Saved are 3rd-best and he rates positively in Plays Saved on shallow-hit, medium-hit, and deep-hit balls.