Blue Jays: How Lourdes Gurriel Jr. ends up on a Gold Glove ballot
Despite struggling through another learning year in left field for the Blue Jays, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is somehow on the Gold Glove award ballot. How does that even happen?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to beat up on Gurriel Jr. and I’ll happily admit that his defence improved as the 2021 campaign went on. However, I’ll admit that I openly laughed out loud when I read that he was back on the ballot for the American League’s top defensive left fielder. With all due respect to a player that I really enjoy watching, it felt like those making up the ballot had never seen him play.
So how does it happen that Gurriel Jr. ends up being considered as one of the top three defenders in left field? There are actually a few variables that can help explain what’s going on.
First, the field is extremely weak, and really isn’t all that deep. The other two players on the ballot were Randy Arozarena of the Rays, and Andrew Benintendi of the Royals, who both make a lot more sense than Gurriel Jr. being there in my mind. To keep things very simple, here are the dWAR scores for the three Gold Glove finalists according to Baseball Reference.
Arozarena: -0.2 dWAR
Benitendi: 0.3 dWAR
Gurriel Jr.: 0.2 dWAR
Clearly the top of the heap is nothing to write home about defensively here, but you’d be surprised at the quality of the rest of the field. Beyond those two, the collection of left fielders in the AL could really use some improvement with their glove work.
To illustrate my point, I’ve picked out the best candidate that the rest of the AL teams could have put forward for the LF Gold Glove award, and things start to make a lot more sense once you see it.
Red Sox- Alex Verdugo: -0.2 dWAR
Astros- Michael Brantley: -0.5 dWAR
Angels- Phil Gosselin: -1.0 dWAR
White Sox- Andrew Vaughn: -1.2 dWAR
Cleveland- Harold Ramirez: -1.0 dWAR
Rangers- Willie Calhoun: -0.5 dWAR
Tigers- Willi Castro: -0.9 dWAR
A’s- Mark Canha: -1.6dWAR
Orioles- Anthony Santander: -0.6 dWAR
Twins- Brent Rooker: -1.2 dWAR
Yankees- Joey Gallo: 0.0 with the Yankees (51 games), no LF in Texas
Mariners- Jake Fraley: 0.3 in only 78 games
Apparently left field has become a forgotten wasteland when it comes to contributing on defence, and the weird thing is there aren’t many premium hitters in the group either.
On top of being one of the best of a bunch of bruised apples, Gurriel Jr. led all of baseball among left fielders with 12 outfield assists, and trailed only Benitendi in games played at the position with 119. As much as it felt like Gurriel Jr. is still very much a work in progress as an outfielder, and he is, it would appear that he’s ahead of the curve in the American League.
My guess is that Benitendi will take home the hardware in 2021, but the Gold Glove is one of the hardest awards to predict. In a world where Derek Jeter can win back to back Gold Gloves in 2009-2010, perhaps Gurriel Jr. has as good a shot as any of the finalists. Wouldn’t that be something.