Red Sox outfielders Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi along with catcher Christian Vazquez were named Rawlings Gold Glove finalists.
Betts, a three-time Gold Glove winner in right field, led American League outfielders with 15 defensive runs saved. His 12.6 Ultimate Zone Rating was second in the AL. The Astros’ Josh Reddick and the Angels’ Kole Calhoun are the other finalists in right. However, Betts’s numbers in addition to his range in right field at Fenway Park make it hard to imagine him losing out on this award.
While the dimensions in Fenway help Betts, Bradley’s metrics take a hit in center field. Many balls that are playable in other ballparks result in extra-base hits at Fenway. As a result, Bradley can’t exhibit his range to the degree of, say, Mike Trout at Angels Stadium or Kevin Kiermaier at Tropicana Field — the other two finalists. It’s part of the reason why the award eluded Bradley until 2018.
Bradley posted a minus-1.2 UZR and minus-1 DRS in 2019, but, again, those numbers don’t reflect what he can do in center. He has one of the best outfield arms — if not the best — in all of baseball and above-average range.
Bradley has a knack for turning his back on a ball hit over his head, running directly to a spot where he knows the ball will be, and catching it. Tough to do, considering he has to take his eye off the ball for a period of time.
If Bradley is traded this offseason, you can bet the metrics in any other ballpark will help support the eye test that has him rated as the top center fielder in most baseball circles.
Vazquez had a breakout season at the plate but his work behind it actually took a step back. He would often try to backhand balls that he could have gotten his body in front of to block.
Still, Vazquez showed at times why he’s elite at his position, throwing out runners at a 38 percent clip. The Blue Jays’ Danny Jansen and the Indians’ Roberto Perez are the two other AL finalists at the position.
The most interesting choice might be Benintendi, who certainly had a down year in left field. Benintendi didn’t exhibit that same burst he did last season, particularly on balls he came in on. While he posted a 1.7 UZR, Benintendi had a minus-3 DRS. He will be up against the A’s Robbie Grossman and the Royals’ Alex Gordon.
Winners will be announced Nov. 3.