Recapping the 2023 American League Gold Glove Winners
Awards season is underway in Major League Baseball after the Gold Glove Award winners were announced on Sunday. For those who are in the weeds when following the sport and the trends, the results of the award didn’t offer many surprises as all were well-deserving. Still, it’s a good time to break down and review the whole field of winners for the American League, followed by the National League in another article.
Pitcher, José Berríos, Toronto Blue Jays
It can be tougher to identify what makes a great fielder pitcher worthy of the Gold Glove Award but José Berríos does a fine job proving it. The right-hander recorded a career-high 26 assists and 15 putouts with just two errors in 2023. He was always quick off the mound, showing his athleticism and putting himself in a good position to field the ball after a pitch. It’s easy to pinpoint a great pitcher, but identifying a great fielding pitcher who makes the routine plays along with the tough ones is harder to pinpoint.
Catcher, Jonah Heim, Texas Rangers
Jonah Heim did it all as the backstop for the Rangers en route to their first World Series title. He had a career year at the plate as well as behind the dish. He led all AL catchers by throwing out a career-high 22 of 80 (27.5%) would be base stealers. He also led all AL catchers in fielding runs above average with 22.8 and had 10 catcher framing runs to rank third. His ability to work with the pitchers can’t be overlooked as he helped navigate the Rangers’ pitching staff to a 4.24 ERA when he was behind the plate. Being able to be great on one side of the ball is tough, but Heim proved to be the type of valuable catcher who can get it done on both sides.
First Base, Nathaniel Lowe, Rangers
To say that 2022 was a disastrous year defensively for Nathaniel Lowe would be an understatement. While his bat did the talking, his glove was not keeping up. Turning the page to 2023, Lowe showed the greatest improvement among first basemen to earn his first career Gold Glove Award. He took a step back offensively but the improvement with the glove more than made up for it. According to Statcast, he finished with four outs above average, just behind Anthony Rizzo’s seven, and had three defensive runs saved. Both marks put him in the top five among AL first basemen after finishing dead last in 2022. The award is a testament to his growth and development as a defender at a position that is typically regarded as an offensive-minded position first.
Second Base, Andrés Giménez, Cleveland Guardians
This is the second year in a row that Andrés Giménez has won the Gold Glove at second base in the AL. He not only led AL second basemen with 18 OAA but also had 23 DRS along with 14 runs above average. He led the position with 408 assists, finished second in double plays, and had a 6.8 ultimate zone rating. In every aspect of his defensive game, there were few who edged him out in any particular metric. His speed and range make him a valuable member of any team helping make their pitchers better. With this type of defensive quality, there is a chance he gets moved to shortstop for the 2024 season if some prospective bats don’t develop enough consistency to contribute every day.
Third Base, Matt Chapman, Toronto Blue Jays
Winning his fourth career Gold Glove Award, Matt Chapman continues to be a standard for high-quality defense at the hot corner. While his offensive output has degraded over the years, his defense has always been top-notch. He finished 11th among all MLB third basemen with four OAA, but his 12 DRS was third best in MLB and top among third basemen in the AL. His 4.5 UZR ranked second as he continues to have an elite range recorded as a 1.8 RngR according to FanGraphs. His legacy as a great defensive third baseman will be well-cemented by the end of his career.
Shortstop, Anthony Volpe, New York Yankees
Anthony Volpe made history as the first rookie to win a Gold Glove Award for the New York Yankees, the second shortstop to ever win it, and was also the youngest shortstop to ever win the award. In 157 games in the field, Volpe played a total of 1,346 2/3 innings, committing 17 errors in 560 total chances. He tallied 186 putouts, 357 assists, and completed 63 double plays. Among advanced metrics, Volpe ranked second among AL shortstops with 15 DRS while his 4.4 RngR led the AL, according to FanGraphs, and his 2.9 Ultimate Zone Rating ranked fourth in the AL. His overall slash line at the plate needs improvement, although he did record a 20/20 season, but the glove is already proven to be of big-league quality.
Left Field, Steven Kwan, Guardians
For the second year in a row, Steven Kwan is the AL’s best left fielder. He not only led MLB left fielders in defensive runs saved with 16 but also outs above average with nine. He led left fielders with 10 outfield assists, and 344 putouts, and played a total of 1,352 innings in left field. He regularly displays a strong arm, quality routes, speed, and awareness in the outfield that make him an easy pick. His quiet consistency offensively and defensively makes him one of the most underrated players in MLB
AL Center Field, Kevin Kiermaier, Blue Jays
Kevin Kiermaier won his fourth career Gold Glove and his first since 2019. It was a return to form for Kiermaier in 2023 as he led all AL center fielders with 18 DRS, the second most among all center fielders in MLB, as well as finishing second in the entirety of the American League, and also have 13 OAA. He ranked near the top is just about every defensive category behind the National League winner Brenton Doyle. This is his second defensive award of the year after winning the Fielding Bible at the position last week.
Right Field, Adolis García, Rangers
His 2023 season will likely be defined by his great performance in the playoffs, but Adolis García did it all for the Rangers in 2023 during the regular season. García ranked in the 95th percentile among outfielders thanks to his cannon of an arm that averaged 93 mph, which helped him to 11 outfield assists. Those assists led the outfield and ranked third in the AL along with his seven DRS. His tendency to be an elite slugger at the plate hides the fact that he is one of the best defensive right fielders in all of baseball and his first career Gold Glove proves it.
Utility, Mauricio Dubón, Houston Astros
Rounding things out for the AL was another first-time winner in Mauricio Dubón. The definition of super utility, Dubón appeared at every position except pitcher and catcher in 2023 for the Astros. His bat was not great in 2023, so the majority of his value to the Astros came with his glove over the course of the year. He started games at five different defensive positions; 64 at second base, 24 in center field, six in left field, nine at shortstop, and two at first base. He spent over half of the season at second base where he recorded five DRS (he was also a Gold Glove finalist at the position), but contributed two DRS in the outfield. When Jose Altuve dealt with injuries, Dubón plugged holes that popped up for the Astros, at least ensuring defense was always going to be solid.