2011 MLB Awards: Ranking the AL and NL Gold Glove Candidates

Corey HanleyContributor IIINovember 1, 2011

2011 MLB Awards: Ranking the AL and NL Gold Glove Candidates

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    Now that the season has ended, the awards for individual performance will start to be revealed. After the Comeback Player of the Year and Hank Aaron Awards comes the Rawlings Gold Gloves for each league.

    There are some substantial changes in the Gold Glove process in 2011. The biggest change is that outfielders have been separated into each individual position instead of all being lumped together as general outfielders.

    Other major changes include three finalists being named for each position and a primetime announcement for all of the winners on November 1 at 10 p.m. EST on ESPN 2.

    With the finalists, we can already see which teams have lost out on honors. In the AL, better luck next year for Toronto, Minnesota, Oakland and Seattle. In the NL, Washington, Houston, San Diego, Chicago and New York (I'm counting Beltran as San Fran's).

    Here are the rankings of the finalists for each position for the Gold Gloves.

AL Pitcher: Mark Buehrle, CWS

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    Candidates:

    1. Mark Buehrle, CWS

    2. Dan Haren, LAA

    3. Fausto Carmona, CLE

    It's hard to compare the pitchers because they really don't field that much, but Buehrle is clearly the most well-known fielding pitcher in the majors.

    Buehrle is looking to complete the three-peat this season after taking the last two Gold Gloves, and I don't see Haren and Carmona stopping him.

NL Pitcher: Hiroki Kuroda, LAD

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    Candidates:

    1. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD

    2. Kyle Lohse, STL

    3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD

    I'll admit that I don't know too much about how well NL pitchers field, but from what I've watched of these three pitchers, Kuroda has been the best fielder. Although he has never won the award in America, Kuroda was the Gold Glove winner in the Nippon Baseball League in 2005.

    Lohse seems like he has the better shot to win the award because he had the same number of chances as Kuroda. None of the three had an error this season.

AL Catcher: Matt Wieters, BAL

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    Candidates:

    1. Matt Wieters, BAL

    2. Alex Avila, DET

    3. A.J. Pierzynski, CWS

    While Alex Avila led the majors in caught stealing, it will clearly be Matt Wieters that takes home the Gold Glove.

    Wieters trailed Avila in throwing out runners by six, but allowed almost 30 less stolen bases. He managed to catch 37 percent of base stealers, while Avila only managed 32 percent.

    Wieters also managed to only allow one passed ball all year, least in the majors. His ability to block the plate will also be a factor in getting him his first major award in just his third season.

    Wieters could become the first Oriole catcher to win a Gold Glove, which would give the Orioles Gold Gloves at every position.

NL Catcher: Yadier Molina, STL

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    Candidates:

    1. Yadier Molina, STL

    2. Carlos Ruiz, PHI

    3. Brian McCann, ATL

    It has been pretty clear for the last four years that Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in the National League, if not the entire majors.

    Molina's only real competition will be against Ruiz, as McCann allowed the most steals in the majors. While Yadier caught the least runners of the three, that is more of a reflection of how much respect he gets because people just don't try to steal off of him.

AL First Baseman: Mark Teixeira, NYY

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    Candidates:

    1. Mark Teixeira, NYY

    2. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

    3. Casey Kotchman, TB

    This will be one of the tightest races in the awards because all three of these division rival first basemen are fantastic fielders.

    Casey Kotchman is no slouch with the glove, but Teixeira and Gonzalez are in a class of their own. In the end, I chose Teixeira to take home the award, but my reasoning may be a little surprising.

    Gonzalez and Teixeira's fielding numbers alone make it difficult to make a decision, so I looked at the voting process. The voting is done by that league's managers and I think that they will go with what they know. Gonzalez is in his first year in the AL, so I think that the award will go to the known, which is Mark Teixeira.

NL First Baseman: Joey Votto, CIN

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    Candidates:

    1. Joey Votto, CIN

    2. James Loney, LAD

    3. Gaby Sanchez, FLA

    This race is also pretty tight, but it comes from the fact that all three have identical fielding percentages.

    Votto stands out to me as the winner in the category because of his UZR, which a lot of people discount, but I think is the best way to separate these finalists. Votto is by far the best, and that is why I think he'll win it.

AL Second Baseman: Ian Kinsler, TEX

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    Candidates:

    1. Ian Kinsler, TEX

    2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS

    3. Robinson Cano, NYY

    Ian Kinsler has been in Dustin Pedroia's shadow for years now. Ever since the two were teammates at Arizona State, it seems like everything has come up Pedroia. Pedroia has picked up World Series wins, an MVP, a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove, while Kinsler has had none of those.

    This is the year for Kinsler. In his second consecutive World Series losing campaign, Kinsler played spectacular defense as part of one of the best defending infields in the majors. His performance in 2011 should give him some hardware for the first time.

NL Second Baseman: Brandon Phillips, CIN

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    Candidates:

    1. Brandon Phillips, CIN

    2. Omar Infante, FLA

    3. Neil Walker, PIT

    Brandon Phillips is like Yadier Molina at second because he's just a shoe-in to win the award year after year.

    Phillips is constantly making highlight-reel plays at second and shining brighter than any of the other second baseman in baseball. With apologies to Neil Walker and Omar Infante, nobody even comes close to DatDudeBP at second.

AL Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE

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    Candidates:

    1. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE

    2. J.J. Hardy, BAL

    3. Erick Aybar, LAA

    I really wanted to put J.J. Hardy here because he quietly had an incredible season at short, but it's hard to put him over Asdrubal Cabrera.

    I mentioned in the last slide that Brandon Phillips was constantly on the highlight reel and the same can be said about Asdrubal, except most of his plays were more spectacular and jaw-dropping. Cabrera has fielded caroms, turned insane double plays, and shown exceptional range to deserve the Gold Glove this year.

NL Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, COL

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    Candidates:

    1. Troy Tulowitzki, COL

    2. Ronny Cedeno, PIT

    3. Alex Gonzalez, ATL

    When you talk about all-around dominant players in the league, Troy Tulowitzki's name always comes up.

    While he is really known for his terrific offense, he also excels defensively. Tulo comes from the same type of mold that Cal Ripken popularized of big shortstops that can really play the position well.

    While smaller guys like Cedeno and Gonzalez would have probably won the award 20 years ago, this time it's likely going to Tulowitzki.

AL Third Baseman: Adrian Beltre, TEX

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    Candidates:

    1. Adrian Beltre, TEX

    2. Evan Longoria, TB

    3. Kevin Youkilis, BOS

    The AL Gold Glove at third looked like it would go to Evan Longoria for a long, Brooks Robinson-esque streak, but injuries sidelined him for a while and Adrian Beltre decided to pick back up on his incredible defensive form that won him the award in 2007 and 2008.

    Beltre has fantastic range and just makes the game look easy at the hot corner. He also managed to keep the family jewels protected for another full season, which is an accomplishment for him.

NL Third Baseman: Daniel Descalso, STL

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    Candidates:

    1. Daniel Descalso, STL

    2. Placido Polanco, PHI

    3. Pablo Sandoval, SF

    When I first looked at the finalists, I was pretty shocked. Pablo Sandoval stood out to me first, and my thought was that a guy that has been criticized so frequently for his weight and mobility should probably not be in the top three of fielding his position. It's a testament to Sandoval's work ethic that he made it that high, but he'll stay at the bottom of the three.

    The other surprise was Daniel Descalso, who was a utility player, but filled in a lot for the oft-injured hero, David Freese. I thought about it a little and it didn't surprise me that he's here. Descalso was an essential defensive piece in keeping the Cardinals in it for a while.

    The fact of the matter is that even though he wasn't a traditional starting player, Descalso made the most of his playing time with terrific defense, so he deserves some honor.

AL Left Fielder: Alex Gordon, KC

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    Candidates:

    1. Alex Gordon, KC

    2. Sam Fuld, TB

    3. Brett Gardner, NYY

    I wanted to put Super Sam Fuld here, but the fact is that his decrease in playing time in the second half crippled his chances to win the award. Despite dazzling catches in the first half, I have to go with the player that played around two times as many innings.

    Alex Gordon has come a long way from being the future at third, turned bust, turned reclamation project in the outfield. Since the switch to left, he has blossomed into a pretty solid player for a young Royals club.

    Gordon, like his counterpart in right for the Royals, had an incredible cannon for an arm in the outfield and gunned down a major league-leading 20 players. That was enough to push him to the top of the left field charts.

NL Left Fielder: Ryan Braun, MIL

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    Candidates:

    1. Ryan Braun, MIL

    2. Gerardo Parra, ARI

    3. Matt Holliday, STL

    I'll start by saying that Matt Holliday has dropped too many balls in key situations to earn a Gold Glove. I like him as an overall player, but his fielding isn't terrific.

    That just leaves Gerrardo Parra and Ryan Braun. Braun, like Alex Gordon, was a converted third baseman, but has worked to become a terrific left fielder. His growth led to a higher fielding percentage than Parra and will lead to an award to show for it.

AL Center Fielder: Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

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    Candidates:

    1. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

    2. Austin Jackson, DET

    3. Peter Bourjos, LAA

    It surprised me to see that two of the previous Gold Glove-winning center fielders are not finalists. Those two are Adam Jones and Franklin Gutierrez. I get Gutierrez, but it's funny to me because I think Jones had a better defensive year in 2011 than when he won a Gold Glove in 2009.

    As for the others, it's clearly Jacoby Ellsbury's year. Ellsbury could very easily get a clean sweep of the awards as he already won Comeback Player of the Year, is a lock for the Silver Slugger and a contender for the MVP.

    All three of these guys have unreal speed, but Ellsbury just used it best this year and should win the award.

NL Center Fielder: Matt Kemp, LAD

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    Candidates:

    1. Matt Kemp, LAD

    2. Shane Victorino, PHI

    3. Chris Young, ARI

    Matt Kemp has improved every single year and this year he took the leap necessary to become an elite player in the game.

    Like Ellsbury, Kemp could go for the award sweep in the NL (minus Comeback Player) because he had such a phenomenal season.

    Victorino could have the edge because he is a past winner, but it should be Kemp that wins.

AL Right Fielder: Nick Markakis, BAL

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    Candidates:

    1. Nick Markakis, BAL

    2. Jeff Francoeur, KC

    3. Torii Hunter, LAA

    The one player that will benefit most from the separation of the outfielders in the voting is Nick Markakis.

    Markakis has been under the radar as one of the premier defensive right fielders for some time now. His rocket arm is second to only Francoeur in the majors for the past five years in gunning down runners and that's partly because they've stopped trying.

    The key play that I think earns the award for Markakis came in Game 2 of the season. With the tying runs on base and two outs in the ninth, Ben Zobrist hit what should have been a game-tying double. Unfortunately for him, Markakis made a full-speed leaping grab at the wall to end the game and send Gary Thorne into a frenzy.

    This will finally be the year for Markakis who could become the third Oriole outfielder ever to win a Gold Glove.

NL Right Fielder: Andre Ethier, LAD

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    Candidates:

    1. Andre Ethier, LAD

    2. Jay Bruce, CIN

    3. Carlos Beltran, NYM/SF

    When it came down to it, I looked at the sabermetrics to determine the best NL right fielder because the numbers didn't do anyone more justice than their peers. In the end, it was Ethier coming out on top.

    I think it would be great to see Ethier and Kemp take home awards together because it would legitimize the effort that the Dodgers put in this season during such a tumultuous time in their history.

    Beltran and Bruce were good, but they really don't move as well as Ethier does in the outfield, so it should be a two-thirds Dodgers outfield for the best fielders in the National League.