The finalists for the 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove Award were announced on Thursday. The Detroit Tigers received three nominations, with second baseman Ian Kinsler, former Tiger Yoenis Cespedes, and right fielder J.D. Martinez all being named. Rookie catcher James McCann was not among those named, nor was shortstop Jose Iglesias. And while Miguel Cabrera earned a nomination last season, he was not a finalist this year.
The unexpected name here is Martinez. Not because he wasn't good, but because no one expected him to be. Not like this. But then, no one used to think much of his bat either and look what happened. At every turn, Martinez has pleasantly surprised the Tigers and fans, and it was the result of hard work put in.
The Tigers went from having an average fielder who could at least hit very well last year -- but defensively, could they afford the drop-off -- to having a solidified player in right field who has shown he can do more than hold his own. This season, Martinez put up four defensive runs saved (DRS) and had a 7.7 ultimate zone rating (UZR), both second-best in the AL to Angels' Kole Calhoun per FanGraphs.
His 8.8 ARM, however, ranked as the best right fielder in all of baseball -- third-best of any outfielder. He finished with 15 assists, second-best in the majors behind only White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (17). By any metric, he was one of the best outfielders in all of baseball, not just right field.
Martinez was understandably elated to hear he'd been named a finalist:
So pumped about being nominated for this award. I've worked extremely hard and take a lot of pride in my defense!!! https://t.co/jZFuiM8Smx— J.D. Martinez (@JDMartinez14) October 29, 2015
As for Kinsler, he earned a nod after starting out slow defensively, to include lapses at second that left many wondering where the flashy glove had gone. But as the season wore on those dissipated and Kinsler steadied himself defensively. The nomination is the third of his career, being named a finalist in 2014 and 2011.
Kinsler finished with an eye-popping 19 DRS and a UZR of 6.3, both tops in the AL. He was middling in making plays out of the zone, though -- as was noticeable at times. He started 44 double plays and recorded 425 assists, both second-most in the AL to Rougned Odor and Brian Dozier, respectively.
While Cespedes did not finish his season with the Tigers, he did spend 2/3 of his season in Detroit, therefore he his nomination is as a member of the Tigers. For the regular season, Cespedes spent the majority of his time in left field, racking up 10 assists, 15 DRS (both second-best in MLB), and an MLB-best 18.8 UZR in left field alone between the two teams.
His 7.5 ARM rating was the best of any left fielder in the majors. He also made 95 plays out of the zone, best of a left fielder in the big leagues. Overall for any outfielder, he finished with 13 assists (eighth in MLB), 11 DRS (12th), 15.6 UZR (third), and an ARM of 6.2 (sixth).
That McCann didn't earn a nod is a bit of a surprise, as he flourished behind the bag this season. But he is a rookie and has a long way to go -- not that it shouldn't dismiss the season he had. He does need to work more on pitching framing (or presenting as he and others like to call it) but has a cannon for an arm, his 41 percent caught stealing showed (MLB average is 32 percent).
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.