For the better part of the past decade Alex Gordon carried the mantle as one of the top defensive players in the American League and standard bearer for the Kansas City Royals’ emphasis on defense.
In the first season post Gordon’s retirement, a quartet of Royals players have picked up that mantle and earned recognition as Gold Glove candidates.
Center fielder Michael A. Taylor, second baseman Whit Merrifield, five-time Gold Glove-winning catcher Salvador Perez and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Gordon’s successor in left field, are all finalists for American League Gold Glove awards as the top defenders at their respective positions.
The winners will be revealed on Sunday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. during a broadcast of “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN. The voting for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards comes from the managers of the 30 MLB teams and up to six of each team’s respective coaches. Managers and coaches cannot vote for players from their own team.
Last year, Gordon won his eighth Gold Glove and matched Frank White’s franchise record. Gordon also won the second AL Platinum Glove of his career.
Shortstop Nicky Lopez, who was a finalist at second base last season, ranked among the best in several defensive metrics but did not make the final three in the AL.
Taylor, who’d been a finalist for the NL Gold Glove in center field, led all MLB center fielders with 19 defensive runs saved, 15 outs above average and 11 outfield assists.
He recorded the second-highest defensive runs saved total of any player in the majors. His career-high 11 outfield assists were the most by a Royals center fielder since Melky Cabrera had 13 in 2011.
Taylor also posted the third-best fielding percentage of AL center fielders (.992). He also led all defenders in the majors in ultimate zone rating (UZR), a metric that aims to measure a defensive player’s arm, range and ability to avoid errors.
He registered a UZR of 13.3 this season. The next highest in the majors belonged to Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman with a rating of 8.7.
Merrifield started 147 games at second base, the most at one position in his career, while he extended the longest active consecutive games played streak in the majors to 469 games.
He finished the season with the third-most defensive runs saved (14) of any player in the majors behind Taylor (19) and Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (21). Merrifield also led middle infielders with 103 double plays turned, and he ranked fourth among all major-league second baseman in fielding percentage (.988).
Both Taylor and Merrifield were also acknowledged as the top defenders at their positions, regardless of league, by Sports Info Solutions’ annual Fielding Bible Awards. The Fielding Bible Awards voting includes a panel of experts who consider statistical analysis as well as the “eye test” among other factors.
Congratulations to the 2021 Fielding Bible Awards Winners!
C- Jacob Stallings
1B- Paul Goldschmidt
2B- Whit Merrifield
SS- Carlos Correa
3B- Ke'Bryan Hayes
LF- Tyler O'Neill
CF- Michael A. Taylor
RF- Aaron Judge
P- Dallas Keuchel
Multi-Pos - Kiké Hernández pic.twitter.com/FncGwh1kWF
— SIS_Baseball (@sis_baseball) October 28, 2021
Perez, a five-time AL Gold Glove winner, won the award four consecutive seasons from 2013-16 and again in 2018.
This season, he led all major-league catchers with 120 starts. Perez also played in a career-high 161 games, which tied Hall of Famer Ted Simmons’ record for games played by a primary catcher (at least 75% of his at catcher).
Perez also led all catchers with 12 double plays, and he threw out at MLB-best 44% (18 of 41) of runners attempting stolen bases. He also led all AL catchers with a .998 fielding percentage and four pickoffs.
Benintendi, acquired last winter in a trade from the Boston Red Sox, started 129 games in left field. His six outfield assists ranked second among AL left fielders, and three of his six outfield assists came during a four-game stretch against the Houston Astros on August 16-19.
In the Royals’ Aug. 18 win, Benintendi threw out the potential game-tying run at home plate to end the game. It marked the fourth walk-off assist in Royals history, the first without a relay throw, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Despite a stint on the injured list with a fractured rib, Benintendi led AL left fielders in starts, innings (1,116), total chances (234), putouts (225) and fielding percentage (.987). He tied for the AL lead among left fielders with seven defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs.
Lopez led all major-league players in outs above average (25) and runs prevented (19) this season.
He recorded the third-highest fielding percentage of any shortstop in the majors and the highest in the AL (.987). He also set a franchise-record with 72 consecutive errorless games at shortstop from May 5 through August 13.
The AL shortstop finalists were Houston’s Carlos Correa, Seattle’s JP Crawford and Minnesota’s Andrelton Simmons.