Assembling MLB's Perfect Defensive Player, Piece by Piece
As much as it's fun to watch an awesome display of offensive firepower in any Major League Baseball game, it still comes down to pitching and defense as the means to a successful end.
On every episode of ESPN's Baseball Tonight, there is a featured segment called Web Gems, a summary of the day's five best defensive plays. Many of these spectacular defensive highlights seen on a nightly basis are of the game-saving variety.
Yes, the three-run home run is sexy, but nothing pleases a manager more than to see his team backing up his pitcher with sound, fundamental defense.
Over the course of his career, Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson won 16 Gold Glove awards. While it probably can't be properly determined, it's a safe guess that Robinson preserved wins for his Baltimore Orioles on dozens of occasions.
Given the name the Human Vacuum Cleaner, Robinson won the 1970 World Series MVP Award, dazzling a national television audience with an array of eye-popping defensive plays at third base throughout the series.
Any pitcher who took the mound during Robinson's career in Baltimore had added protection. And what hurler in his right mind wouldn't want that extra peace of mind every time he toed the rubber?
Defense wins games. Defense wins championships. Robinson proved that in 1970.
The game of baseball hasn't changed since those days, and defense still wins games and championships today.
The perfect defensive player in every facet would have to be blessed with four essential tools—a cannon for an arm, a glove that gobbles up every ball, great range and terrific instincts.
Since it's almost impossible to find a player who possesses all four components, we've decided to make up the perfect defensive player. Taking parts from different MLB players, we will actually construct that perfect defensive specimen. Players used will only be ones currently playing.
Arm: Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals
Entering his ninth year in MLB, Francoeur has averaged just over 14 assists a season from right field. His right arm isn't just a cannon—it's a bazooka. Francoeur has two assists already this year, and both of them showcased his amazing strength.
Against the Atlanta Braves on April 16, Francoeur had to scramble before throwing a perfect strike to nail Andrelton Simmons—preventing the Braves from scoring the go-ahead run at the time and ending the seventh inning.
That's one way to end a threat.
Eight days later, Francoeur again put the arm on display.
Again, his throw ended an inning and prevented the Tigers from tying the game.
That's the arm I want behind me on the mound.
Glove: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Ever since his career started back in 1998, Beltre has been special defensively. The four Gold Glove awards are just a sampling of how valuable he is for any team.
Beltre has been pretty special offensively, making three straight All-Star teams heading into this season. But the glove has always been his forte—the play seen in the video is one that few in baseball can make.
So far, we have Francoeur's arm and Beltre's glove. Now we need to add a little range.
Range: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
He's played just over 200 games in his brief career, but Trout has already put together a defensive highlight reel that rivals anyone's in baseball.
ESPN and MLB Network both featured Trout highlights through last year and a couple already this season.
Trout's robbing of home runs became almost a regular ritual for him.
When you can make a positive impression on nine-time Gold Glove Award winner Torii Hunter, you're definitely doing something right.
Trout's highway robbery of Gordon Beckham in early August was another thing of beauty.
Trout's great range and terrific instincts made each one of those plays possible.
Trout doesn't just make the plays in center field, either. He's gotten it done in left as well.
Adrian Beltre was absolutely astounded that Trout even got to that ball. As a defensive wizard himself, Beltre could certainly appreciate the beauty of the play.
All-Around Instincts: Torii Hunter, Detroit Tigers
He won nine Gold Glove awards in center field. He robbed the all-time home run leader in an All-Star game. And he's still excelling in the field at a different position.
Hunter filled up his own highlight reel over the years with spectacular catches. But he wasn't blessed with the speed of Mike Trout—he simply has a great instinct for the game defensively. Even in the last two years at a position foreign to him, Hunter collected 29 assists.
In terms of having a feel for the game defensively, I'll take Hunter any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
So there you have it—the perfect defensive player. The arm of Francoeur, the glove of Beltre, the range of Trout and the instincts of Hunter.
Give me eight guys like that, and I'll take my chances against the best offensive team in the league.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.
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