The Toronto Blue Jays’ season may have ended with disappointing win total, but a pair of players are earning a little recognition for their efforts on the defensive side of the ball.
First baseman Justin Smoak and catcher Danny Jansen were both named finalists at their respective positions in American League Gold Glove voting, which rewards the best defensive players around the diamond.
Smoak was a finalist for the award last year, getting edged out by Matt Olson of the Oakland Athletics for the honour. The 32-year-old free-agent-to-be started 88 games at first in the 2019 season, posting a .995 fielding percentage. Most advanced metrics rated Smoak as an average to slightly below-average fielder last season, but his reputation as a sure hand proceeds him. Even if it is a reputation-based spot on the list, it’s a well-earned honour given how long he has been underappreciated throughout his career.
Incumbent winner Olson and Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros are the other first base finalists in the American League.
Jansen is the name that likely excites and surprises Blue Jays fans far more, and with good reason. Earning recognition as one of the best players at the game’s most grueling defensive position at any point is an accomplishment, and doing so as a rookie even moreso. Furthermore, Jansen came into his rookie season facing more questions about his defence than his offence, and an end-of-year nod as a finalist for a Gold Glove is a great base to build on as the catcher of the future of the team going forward.
In his first full season in the majors, Jansen caught 19 runners stealing (with a 31% success rate), added 12 runs saved above average defensively, and rated out as a top-10 catcher MLB-wide in framing runs (top 3 catcher in the AL). For a player entering a season tagged as a possible liability, it all adds up to a very optimistic projection going forward for the 24-year-old.
Christian Vázquez of the Boston Red Sox and Roberto Pérez of the Cleveland Indians are the other two finalists among American League catchers.
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