Recapping the 2023 National 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. I’ve already recapped the American League winners, and now it’s the National League’s turn.
Pitcher, Zack Wheeler, Philidaelphia Phillies
2023 was another year in which Zack Wheeler proved himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball in both the regular season as well as the postseason. Adding to his mythos was the added tool of being able to flash the leather. Wheeler won his first career Gold Glove by recording four defensive runs saved which happened to rank fourth on the team. He recorded 14 putouts and had 15 assists with just one error. It’s also worth noting that he was quite good at limiting stolen bases, allowing just three on the season. Any team will take the added bonus of their top pitcher showing their athleticism to boost the defense when they can.
Catcher, Gabriel Moreno, Arizona Diamondbacks
When the Diamondbacks made the trade to acquire Gabriel Moreno from the Toronto Blue Jays, no one could have predicted that he would be as elite as he was in his first full season as a rookie. Moreno led MLB backstops with 20 defensive runs saved as well as caught stealing above average (nine), according to Statcast, in 2023. His 48% caught-stealing rate was the best in MLB and proves that the Diamondbacks made one of the best trades last offseason to bring in what could be a franchise catcher for years to come. He is the sixth youngest catcher to ever win the award
First Base, Christian Walker, Diamondbacks
Joining Moreno is his teammate Christian Walker who wins the award for the second year in a row. Better known for his slugging, Walker has now established himself as one of the best defensive first basemen in all of baseball. His 11 Outs Above Average led all first basemen while his nine DRS was second in the league behind Carlos Santana. Less heralded but equally important was the fact that he recorded tied a career-high with 15 scoops at first base. The consecutive Gold Gloves are a testament to the work that Walker has put into his defensive work to become a more valuable player for the Diamondbacks. Walker enters rare company in Arizona as he is just the second first baseman to win multiple Gold Gloves, joining Paul Goldschmidt.
Second Base, Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs had the best middle infield tandem in baseball as Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson combined to win Gold Gloves at both their positions. Hoerner earned his first award by tying for the league lead among second basemen with 12 defensive runs saved. He ranked second only to his teammate Swanson with 13 OAA. There is an argument that Milwaukee’s Brice Turang was more worthy of the award, but Hoerner’s evolution to the new full-time position and working with Swanson elevated his game as he stayed right on the heels of Turang all season and was more than worthy of winning the award.
Third Base, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates
For the past decade, it seemed that no one would ever win a Gold Glove at third base in the NL as long as Nolan Arenado was around, but that finally changed in 2023. Arenado not only didn’t win but wasn’t even a finalist for the award. Ke’Bryan Hayes has been a finalist the past few seasons, even being the best overall defensive third baseman by many defensive metrics. The voters finally recognized him in 2023 after he led all third basemen with 17 outs above average, 21 defensive runs saved, and a Statcast fielding run value of 13. Hayes’ 2.4 defensive WAR, per Baseball-Reference, was the best by any third baseman in MLB. He’ll likely be in the running for the Platinum Glove Award, but he finally broke through in 2023 with another fantastic defensive campaign.
Shortstop, Dansby Swanson, Cubs
In his first season with the Cubs, Swanson picked up where he left off with the Atlanta Braves to win his second consecutive Gold Glove. Once again he led all shortstops with 20 OAA while also setting a career-high with 18 DRS and had a fielding run value of 15. Swanson and Hoerner became the first tandem since 2016 to both win Gold Gloves up the middle of the infield and just the 13th overall in the history of MLB. The NL finalists were all well deserving but Swanson set the gold standard in 2023 and will continue to be the player to beat in the years to come. In a sport with so many incredible athletes at shortstop, Swanson continues to rise to the top.
Left Field, Ian Happ, Cubs
Ian Happ has moved around the outfield in the past but his glove has always been valuable to the Cubs as he won his second consecutive Gold Glove. In 2023 he led all MLB left fielders with 12 assists and a 10.7 ultimate zone rating according to FanGraphs. He has the best Range Runs Above Average at 6.7 while continuing to utilize effective outs and utilize an above-average arm in the outfield to its fullest potential. The combination of Happ, Swanson, and Hoerner marked the first time the Cubs have had a trio of Gold Glove winners in the same season.
Center Field, Brenton Doyle, Colorado Rockies
A number of fans were confused as to who Brenton Doyle was when he was announced as the winner of the Gold Glove Award in center field in 2023. The rookie for the 103-loss Colorado Rockies debuted late in April and struggled offensively all season but his defense was another story. Doyle led all of baseball with a fielding run value of 21 and led all center fielders with 19 DRS while also recording 10 outfield assists. He made the cavernous real estate of Coors Field look manageable as no center fielder had ever recorded more than six DRS for the Rockies. He recorded the fastest throw ever by Statcast at 105.7 mph and according to Sports Info Systems, Doyle led all of MLB with a 24.5 Ultimate Zone Rating. He finished with 16 OAA which was the highest for any outfielder and tied for sixth-highest among all defenders. He was just the sixth rookie outfielder to ever win the award and the first National League rookie to do so.
Right Field, Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
No one knew how things would work out for Fernando Tatis Jr. with a move to right field full time but he shattered any expectations anyone may have had. He led all of MLB with 29 DRS and had an average arm strength of 96.6 mph was second in the league. He had 12 outfield assists, a 13.8 UZR, and a position-leading 11 OAA. He was already a quality shortstop but has now taken his athleticism to new heights in the outfield to become one of the best defenders in all of baseball in the outfield. The mixture of a strong arm and the speed to cover the ground has allowed him to unleash the skills he displayed on the infield dirt.
Utility, Ha-Seong Kim, Padres
When the infield faltered in 2023 for the Padres, Ha-Seong Kim was there to provide stability on both sides of the ball. He was often the offensive carrier for a struggling Padres team but his versatility was always valuable on the dirt. He combined for a total of 16 DRS with 10 DRS coming for the majority of work he did at second base. The other six DRS were evenly split between third base and shortstop. His 10 DRS at second trailed just behind Turang and Hoerner, making him a worthy candidate at any solo position he played. The ability to use Kim as a multi-purpose tool adds to his value as the Padres continue to find space for players to occupy.
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