In a sure sign that the 2023 baseball season is winding down, the Rawlings Baseball Gold Glove Award finalists were announced on Wednesday.
To no one's surprise, five Toronto Blue Jays are among the finalists, including Kevin Kiermaier (CF), Daulton Varsho (LF), Matt Chapman (3B), Alejandro Kirk (C) and José Berríos (P).
Blue Jays fans were spoiled by watching such high-end, crisp, clean defense this season. Having five finalists is a good sign for a Jays team that prioritized defense in 2023.
The annual Gold Glove Awards are presented to one player at each position in both the American and National Leagues. Per the Rawlings website, the award "represents overall fielding excellence, and it is not an award based solely on fielding metrics and statistics, nor does it factor in offensive production."
The 2023 Gold Glove Award winners will be announced on Nov. 5.
Kevin Kiermaier, CF
Other nominees: Luis Robert Jr. (CHW), Julio Rodríguez (SEA)
Already a three-time Gold Glove winner and a Platinum Glove recipient, Kevin Kiermaier wowed Toronto fans in his first (and maybe only) season in a Blue Jays uniform. After watching him patrol center field for the division rival Tampa Bay Rays, fans at Rogers Centre were treated to elite defense nightly in 2023.
Kiermaier finished the year with 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), a mark head and shoulders above the other two AL center field finalists, Luis Robert Jr. (6) and Julio Rodríguez (-5).
Oh, plus there was The Outlaw's very first play in front of his new fans:
Daulton Varsho, LF
Other nominees: Austin Hays (BAL), Steven Kwan (CLE)
Daulton Varsho, also in his first season as a Blue Jay, had an outstanding year in the field even though he had his struggles at the plate. The 27-year-old was a workhorse for the Jays in his second full MLB season, playing in 158 games.
Despite shifting over to cover center field in a third of his games, Varsho still finished second among left fielders with 11 DRS in 117 appearances. He actually had the highest DRS among all outfielders in the majors, with 29.
While fans can lament the trade that brought him to Toronto all they want, there's no denying that Varsho deserves to win his first Gold Glove, as his addition to the outfield was a big reason why the Blue Jays had the best outfield defense in baseball.
Matt Chapman, 3B
Other nominees: José Ramírez (CLE), Alex Bregman (HOU)
Already a three-time Gold Glove and two-time Platinum Glove winner, being nominated and a finalist is nothing new for third baseman Matt Chapman.
The 30-year-old played 1,213 2/3 innings at the hot corner this season, the fourth-most in the AL. He made 114 putouts and assisted on 253 others while committing only 12 errors. That number is less than both other finalists. Bregman finished with 15 errors, while Ramírez had 14. His .968 fielding percentage also tops Bregman's .963 and Ramírez's .956 rates.
The sure-handed fielder with a cannon for an arm led all AL third basemen with 12 DRS and put together another full highlight reel of defensive plays this season, including this gem:
Alejandro Kirk, C
Other nominees: Adley Rutschman (BAL), Jonah Heim (TEX)
While Alejandro Kirk had his fair share of struggles with the bat this season, his catching ability was never in doubt. The 24-year-old led all AL catchers with 17 DRS and finished with a .993 fielding percentage in 775 innings behind the plate.
He also finished first in the AL in Statcast's Blocks Above Average metric with 14 and was only two behind Atlanta's Sean Murphy for the best mark in the majors. His competition for the Gold Glove both had worse marks. Adley Rutschman had a 7 BAA, while Jonah Heim had an even 0 BAA.
Kirk is looking to win his first career Gold Glove award.
José Berríos, P
Other nominees: Pablo López (MIN), Sonny Gray (MIN)
Also looking for his first Gold Glove, the resurgent José Berríos is a finalist with two pitchers from his former team, the Minnesota Twins.
Berríos made only two errors in 189 2/3 innings on the mound this season, good for a .953 fielding percentage. He also racked up an impressive 5 DRS, while Pablo López and Sonny Gray each finished with 4 DRS.
Considered as the Blue Jays best-fielding pitcher, Berríos is also highly thought of around baseball as one of the game's best fielders at his position. This is his third consecutive nomination and the fourth of his career (2019, 2021, 2022, 2023).
Hopefully this is the year the 29-year-old finally takes home the hardware.