The 2023 MLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award Finalists were announced this afternoon. The Atlanta Braves were a sound defensive unit for the season and have been rewarded with three Gold Glove nominees, although a couple may surprise you.
The one we expected
All year Michael Harris II put on a defensive clinic. On the year MH2 posted a 7.7 defensive fWAR, ranked in the 92nd percentile in fielding run value, and had 7 outs above average (OAA). His nomination was expected and is more than worthy.
Although his competition will be fierce. Alek Thomas, and Brenton Doyle of the Colorado Rockies are the other finalists. Doyle seems to be a candidate for the platinum glove as he ranks in the 100th percentile in fielding run value, and 99th percentile in the following: Range (OAA), Arm Value, and Arm Strength. His 21.6 defensive fWAR was among the best in baseball.
However, Doyle doesn’t have the claim of owning the only outfield started game-ending double play in postseason history.
The Austin Riley turnaround
I will be the first to admit I did not have Austin Riley becoming a gold glove finalist on my bingo card. Since his career began, Riley has consistently graded as one of the worst defenders in baseball since entering the league. This season he flipped the defensive struggles and that is a testament to his hard work.
Back in August our great writer, Mitchell put a piece together on the turnaround defensively from Riley. And when it was all said and done, Riley finally didn’t have a negative grade in OAA at seasons end.
In the first time in over a decade someone not named Nolan Arenado will win the NL Gold Glove at third base. As much as we are pulling for Riley, I would expect this award to go to Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates, as he finished with the highest defensive fWAR (15.5) among all MLB third baseman.
An outfielder gets a surprising nomination
For as surprising as Riley was as a nominee, at least his numbers warranted a nomination. Yet, somehow Eddie Rosario was selected as a finalist. Just to paint a picture, Rosario finished the season with a -2.3 defensive fWAR. That was good for 45th among left fielders with at least 60 innings played. Kevin Pillar graded higher.
I get not many guys even qualify for a nomination, but to have Rosario included seems insane. But considering the other candidates it’s not a complete certainty Eddie doesn’t walk away with this award.
Sean Murphy not a finalist?
The glaring omission among the NL finalists was the absence of one Sean Murphy. The Braves primary catcher posted a 16.4 defensive fWAR despite playing in just 108 games. By comparison J.T. Realmuto posted a -3.4 fWAR so I don’t quite understand his inclusion here.
Truly the only thing going for Realmuto over Murphy was that he committed fewer errors. Murphy was the better framer (by a mile) and more effient at throwing out base stealers. Realmuto’s nomination over Murphy and William Contreras for that matter is a very outdated way at looking at defense to say the least.
That isn’t necessarily something that is shocking with this award anymore. Murphy’s exclusion is just one of the many egregious displays for Gold Glove nominations over the years. Regardless, congrats to Riley, Harris II, and Rosario for their nominations and we hope to see each of them take home the award at their respective positions.