When the top three vote-getters for 2023 Gold Glove Awards were revealed on Wednesday afternoon, there were three Orioles set up as possible winners for this season. They are: Adley Rutschman (catcher), Ryan Mountcastle (first base), and Austin Hays (left field).
These awards are announced officially as finalists. It’s misleading, since it implies there is further voting from this list to determine the winner. That’s not what actually happens. The Wednesday announcements are the top three finishers for already-concluded balloting. The majority of results are determined by manager and coach voting (75%), with 25% of the winning formula incorporating a sabermetric formula.
There were two Orioles who came in the top three at their positions last year: Cedric Mullins for center field and Ramón Urías for third base. Urías was later revealed as the winner for the third base Gold Glove. Neither of these guys will be repeating that feat this year.
The top three at each position where an Oriole is a “finalist”:
- Catcher: Jonah Heim (Rangers), Alejandro Kirk (Blue Jays), Rutschman
- First base: Nathaniel Lowe (Rangers), Anthony Rizzo (Yankees), Mountcastle
- Left field: Steven Kwan (Guardians), Daulton Varsho (Blue Jays), Hays
Should the Orioles players come out on top of these trios? A quick look at each field:
Rutschman’s defense dropped off from last season, when he had a dWAR component on Baseball Reference of 1.5 and 13.1 runs saved on FanGraphs. This year, that dropped to 0.2 dWAR and 8.1 runs despite more playing time.
Heim, the former Orioles prospect, rates significantly better at FanGraphs (22 runs) and has a higher dWAR as well at 1.0. He rated particularly better than Rutschman at controlling the running game. According to Statcast data, Heim is one of the best pitch framers in baseball.
Kirk comes in at 1.7 dWAR and 14 runs saved on FanGraphs. He does not have any flashy numbers among things that can be easily measured, like caught stealing percentage or pitch framing, but the public defensive metrics like him anyway.
Last year’s AL winner, Jose Trevino of the Yankees, only played 55 games this season.
Mountcastle is something of a surprise inclusion going off of public defensive numbers, with -0.4 dWAR and -8.4 runs at FanGraphs. It’s worth a quick note that any first baseman is not going to have good defensive numbers due to the positional adjustment.
Lowe is nearly identical to Mountcastle at -0.4 dWAR and -8.1 runs on FanGraphs.
Rizzo, who only played 92 games at first place, managed to qualify anyway. He had -0.2 dWAR and -1.5 runs for his defense on FanGraphs.
Last year’s winner at this position was Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Kwan is the incumbent winner from 2022. If the coaches were voting based on something like Defensive Runs Saved, or if their eye test lines up with that, Kwan has a good chance of repeating. He was a +15 in DRS, and +9 in Statcast’s Outs Above Average.
Varsho came in at +11 runs for left field, but I wonder how much of his finishing in the top three here is actually based on his play in center field (462.1 innings - compared to 817.2 innings in left). Varsho popped at +18 runs in center field and +9 OAA, which is impressive stuff.
Hays, well, he doesn’t compare to those metrics. +7 DRS and +0 OAA. It is, of course, hard to know how much he is being penalized for playing in front of Walltimore in some of the metrics. It’ll be fun if he wins, because it’s fun for Orioles to get honors, but let’s not kid ourselves.
The winners will be announced starting at 7:30pm Eastern on Sunday, November 5, in a special edition of Baseball Tonight on ESPN. Or, you know, you can just look at Twitter to see what the beat writers say about who won. A full list of “finalists” from each league can be found here.
Do you think any of these 2023 O’s will join Urías as Gold Glovers? Was anybody on the team notably snubbed in your eyes?