Photo: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire
This is the second part of our two-part preview that will focus on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced next Thursday, October 26.
This week, Part II of our preview looks at outfielders, pitchers, our multi-position award, and something new this year – our inaugural Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The Defensive Player of the Year will go to the player that our voting panel believes was the top defensive performer in 2023.
The Fielding Bible Awards is voted on by a panel of experts who can vote based on whatever criteria they choose, including observation and subjective judgement, as well as statistical analysis. Each position has one overall winner, different from the Gold Gloves, which has one in each league. Similarly, the Defensive Player of the Year is only given to one player, whereas the Platinum Glove Award is given to one in each league.
(Defensive Runs Saved totals in parentheses)
Fielding Bible Award Favorites: Steven Kwan (16), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (14)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: David Peralta (7)
AL Gold Glove Favorite: Kwan
NL Top Contender: Nolan Jones (9)
AL Top Contender: Daulton Varsho (11)
Kwan will be looking to win his 2nd straight Fielding Bible Award after leading his position in Defensive Runs Saved for the 2nd straight season. Gurriel Jr. is a pretty good challenger. He ranked 16th among left fielders in innings played but finished 2nd in Runs Saved. Jones, who led all left fielders in Outfield Arm Runs Saved, is also formidable.
One note here: Peralta is listed as the NL Gold Glove favorite. Based on previously published eligibility requirements, neither Gurriel nor Jones are eligible for a Gold Glove this year.
Fielding Bible Award Favorite: Brenton Doyle (19), Kevin Kiermaier (18)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Doyle
AL Gold Glove Favorite: Kiermaier
NL Top Contenders: Johan Rojas (15), Alek Thomas (5)
AL Top Contenders: Kyle Isbel (13), Cedric Mullins (7)
This is one of the most fun positional races to discuss. Doyle had an incredible season. He led all center fielders in Runs Saved as a rookie playing regularly in the toughest outfield to play in the majors, Coors Field. No other Rockies center fielder has ever saved more than 6 runs in a season. Meanwhile, Kiermaier was great from start to finish. He led all center fielders in the Range component of Runs Saved despite ranking 10th in innings played.
Fielding Bible Award Favorite: Fernando Tatis Jr. (29)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Tatis Jr.
AL Gold Glove Favorites: Alex Verdugo (9), Adolis García (7)
NL Top Contenders: Jason Heyward (5), Mookie Betts (3)
AL Top Contender: Kyle Tucker (1)
Statistically, this one is a runaway. In his first year playing the position, Tatis led all right fielders in Runs Saved, with the next-closest player 20 runs behind. He left some of the game’s top defensive right fielders in the dust. The suspense here is in which player wins the AL Gold Glove, which figures to be a close vote between Verdugo and Garcia, with perhaps last year’s Gold Glove winner, Tucker, snagging some votes too.
Fielding Bible Award Favorites: Jesús Luzardo (7), Zack Greinke (6)
NL Gold Glove Favorite: Luzardo
AL Gold Glove Favorite: José Berríos (5)
NL Top Contenders: Taijuan Walker (5), Zack Wheeler (4)
AL Top Contender: Sonny Gray (4), Pablo López (4)
Luzardo edged out Greinke by 1 run for the Runs Saved lead for pitchers this year. He also led in the Range component of Runs Saved but Greinke edged him out by a run in another component, Stolen Base Runs Saved. Greinke also has a strong defensive history. He’s previously won 2 Fielding Bible Awards and 6 Gold Glove Awards. However, he’s only eligible for a Fielding Bible Award due to Gold Glove eligibility requirements.
Walker also deserves a mention. He finished 2 Runs Saved off the MLB lead for pitchers this year. He’s yet to win any defensive awards but is the position’s Runs Saved leader over the last 3 seasons.
Fielding Bible Award Favorite: Mookie Betts (9)
NL Utility Player Gold Glove Favorite: Betts
AL Utility Player Gold Glove Favorites: Taylor Walls (10)
NL Top Contenders: Jon Berti (5), Tommy Edman (3)
AL Top Contender: Mauricio Dubón (5) Zach McKinstry (1)
Betts has won 5 Fielding Bible Awards previously, all in right field, but this season he split time between right field, second base and shortstop. Of those, he actually fared best statistically at 2nd base, saving 6 runs.
Betts’ competition includes a mix of players who moved around the diamond a little more than he did but didn’t quite match Betts in Runs Saved, like Dubón and Castro. There’s also McKinstry, who played at least 90 innings at 5 different positions.
The Fielding Bible Awards panel votes for this award based on a list of 15 players generated from a Defensive Versatility Score formula created by Bill James to measure a combination of defensive versatility and value. The stat rewards players who usually play many positions in a season, might move from position to position, and have demonstrated the ability to handle high-leverage positions when the team needs them to.
Rawlings’ criteria for the definition of a utility player for the Gold Glove Award have not been shared publicly.
Defensive Player of the Year
Fielding Bible Award Favorites: Daulton Varsho (29), Fernando Tatis Jr. (27)
NL Platinum Glove Favorites: Tatis, Ke’Bryan Hayes (21), Brenton Doyle (19)
AL Platinum Glove Favorite: Varsho, Andrés Giménez (23), Kevin Kiermaier (18)
NL Top Contenders: Gabriel Moreno (20), Dansby Swanson (18)
AL Top Contenders: Marcus Semien (16)
Our inaugural award could go to any number of players. Varsho led the majors in Runs Saved, with 18 in center field and 11 in left field (he was eligible to win only in left field). Tatis had the most Runs Saved of any player at any position. Swanson, Doyle, and Moreno play premium positions. Giménez and Hayes have repeatedly put up great numbers at their respective positions.
Voters on our panel could vote for any player who was eligible for The Fielding Bible Awards for Defensive Player of the Year.
The Platinum Glove is selected by fan voting among the Gold Glove winners and thus Varsho, who faces tough competition in left field, might not end up in the mix, which opens the door for Kiermaier to be a strong contender.