Award Watch 2017: Do any Atlanta Braves have a shot at major awards?
By Scott Ferris
Gold Glove Award: Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman
As mentioned earlier, Inciarte took home GG honors in 2016. His absurd range and excellent first step helped him cover a ton of ground and narrowly beat out fellow speedster Billy Hamilton.
He plays with a competitive edge and seemingly wills his way into being an elite defender. Between game-saving catches and perfectly-played fake outs, Inciarte produced Web-Gem-worthy plays on a nightly basis.
Heading into 2017, the National League GG competition in center field will again be a two-horse race between Inciarte and Hamilton. Staying healthy and remaining a serviceable hitter (something voters still seem to value) will likely be the deciding factor.
Another sneaky candidate for Gold Glove honors could be Freeman. While first base can be a difficult defensive position to judge, both advanced metrics and the eye test speak favorably about Freeman’s leather work.
While he doesn’t seem to get much love league wide, Atlanta fans have no doubt recognized him for his acrobatic splits and slick fielding. He does an excellent job picking short hops and has the ability to extend his large frame to rein in errant throws.
Not to take anything away from Andrelton Simmons but look back at some of his best defensive highlights. While he makes otherworldly stops and strong throws, many of them also involve a full split or impressive pick from Freeman.
In terms of actual stats, Freeman ranked second among NL first basemen in defensive runs saved and fourth in UZR last season. His candidacy isn’t based solely on receiving throws, he’s a legitimate asset on defense and it wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to win the award.
A third candidate worth a look could be Albies. It remains to be seen how much playing time he’ll receive but he’s considered a strong defensive player at shortstop. He projects to be one of the best defenders at second base in all of baseball.
We’ll just have to see how much time he gets at the position.