Creating an MLB All-Defensive All-Star Lineup
This All-Star lineup of the best defensive MLB players brings together standouts from each position. They've been chosen because of their visual elegance and high marks in traditional and advanced statistics.
Evaluating the most recent performances of active individuals resulted in the following selections.
It would practically be impossible for a baseball to find space to fall between them.
*All "Watch him" video clips courtesy of MLB.com.
Catcher: Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)
Everybody—Baseball Info Solutions, Major League Baseball, Rawlings, etc.—recognizes that Yadier Molina is a prodigy behind the plate.
The flame-throwing St. Louis Cardinals bullpen tallied only 17 wild pitches last season. The pitching staff as a whole had the best caught-stealing rate in the sport.
These aren't coincidences.
Molina comes from a family of catchers (brothers Bengie and Jose), so it's no surprise that he has the ideal body and mindset for the position.
First Base: Mark Teixeira (New York Yankees)
It's hard to quantify a dependable glove, but that is undoubtedly the most important aspect of first-base defense.
Mark Teixeira frequently converts errant throws into outs with a knack for scooping balls from the infield dirt and contorting to reach to either side. There might not be another 215-pound man on the planet who rivals his flexibility.
Though he often plays the role of a receiver, Tex possesses a strong and accurate throwing arm. According to FanGraphs, he leads all American League first basemen with 47 double plays started since 2009.
Second Base: Darwin Barney (Chicago Cubs)
Darwin Barney is a former shortstop who looks completely at ease on the right side of the infield.
He tied an MLB record in 2012, going 141 consecutive games without committing an error at second base. Thanks to his ability to track pop-ups into the shallow outfield, Barney also piled up the league's highest putout total.
He led the NL in defensive WAR (3.6).
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan (Seattle Mariners)
You won't find another MLB player with Brendan Ryan's quick release. At 6'2", he has a longer reach than the average shortstop and, overall, remarkable range.
Ryan is inexplicably without a Gold Glove, despite four semi-full MLB seasons at this position. FanGraphs shows a tremendous disparity between him and his peers since 2009, the year he finally earned significant playing time.
Third Base: Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)
Evan Longoria gets a pass for his ordinary 2012 defense. At 26 years old, he missed half the season with a hamstring injury and had obvious physical limitations upon returning.
Though he annually ranks among the third-base leaders in assists and putouts, Longoria is seldom charged with errors.
He reacts quickly and fields cleanly to both his glove-hand and back-hand sides. Plus, nobody is better at charging weak ground balls. Longoria could make the bare-handed pickup and off-balance throw in his sleep.
Left Field: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Early in his MLB career, Mike Trout has gained experience at all three outfield positions. As of now, the Los Angeles Angels intend to use him in left next season.
There isn't a more athletic player anywhere on the diamond. He combines sprinter speed with an NBA-caliber vertical leap.
The sabermetrics affirm his greatness, but more so than any other defender, Trout needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Center Field: Michael Bourn (Free Agent)
Michael Bourn's blazing speed and quick reads make difficult plays seem easy. He coasts underneath line drives that other center fielders only catch up to at the last possible instant. That ability to cover ground is reflected in his Ultimate Zone Rating.
Bourn has been established as a terrific defender since his Houston Astros days, so baserunners don't challenge him anymore.
Via Baseball-Reference.com, 11 of 21 opposing players leaving from first base on a double against him last summer held up at third (instead of attempting to score). His accuracy compensates for ordinary arm strength.
Right Field: Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves)
Since reaching the big leagues in 2010, Jason Heyward has amassed 50 defensive runs saved. That's second-best among all outfielders—trailing only Michael Bourn—and nearly twice as many as the next best right fielder (Giancarlo Stanton, 26).
At 6'5", Heyward has the wingspan to reach for balls that graze off the top of other gloves.
Arm strength is particularly important in right, and "The J-Hey Kid" has a cannon. He totaled a position-leading 11 assists last season, including five at home plate.
Pitcher: Mark Buehrle (Toronto Blue Jays)
Defensive skills generally deteriorate with age, but Mark Buehrle isn't slowing down, even with his 34th birthday approaching.
Due to his pitch-to-contact style and durability, the southpaw has led all pitchers in total chances since 2008. In that span, Buehrle also ranks first in double plays started (17), pickoffs (36) and defensive runs saved (46).
You would assume that the errors pile up, simply because he fields the ball so often.
Wrong! Buehrle has committed only two in the past five years.
He gets in great fielding position coming out of his delivery. So long as that's the case, he'll continue to make fantastic plays.