They’ll announce the Gold Glove winners on Sunday and this year, as you’ve probably heard, the Royals have but two nominees. Salvador Perez as a catcher and Alex Gordon as a left fielder. Honestly, that sounds about right, going by the eye test. It also looks about right if you go by FanGraphs’ DEF stat. Salvy is actually fifth among catchers in the stat while Alex has nearly doubled the DEF of his next closest contender, Brett Gardner. It probably says something about how valuable left-field defense is that Andrew Benintendi is third on the list with a -1.5 DEF stat. Alex should win the award, easily.
The other nominated catchers are Martin Maldonado, who won it last year, and Yan Gomes. Gomes had an incredible bounce-back season, this year, offensively and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him walk away with the award for his efforts. By all rights, it probably should go to Maldonado, again, but I anticipate his lack of offense and switching teams part way through the year to make it difficult on him.
You might be wondering why Whit Merrifield didn’t get any love and there are two reasons. First of all, he played other positions too often. But he also wasn’t all that great among American League second-basemen, in the DEF stat, this year. He comes in sixth place out of nine qualified second basemen in the DEF stat, this year. He was literally the worst second baseman in the league to still be a positive contributor defensively. Jed Lowrie, Ian Kinsler, and Rougned Odor were the top three by this stat and also the nominees. If the voting were done purely by FanGraphs’ DEF stat, Kinsler would walk away with an easy victory.
Checking in on the Arizona Fall League
The current Royals’ roster has some intriguing players but if the team is going to be good they’re definitely going to need some help from guys currently in the minors. The minor league teams have all wrapped for the year but the Arizona Fall League is still going strong so we can take a quick look there and see if anyone looks like they’re knocking on the Royals’ door any time soon.
There are two players currently standing out for the Royals on the Surprise Saguaros. Catcher Meibrys Viloria went straight from the big league team down to Arizona. His .333 slugging percentage leaves something to be desired but he has walked more times than he’s struck out in his six games, so far. Outfielder Nick Heath may not be a name anyone recognizes but he managed to earn a promotion from Wilmington to Northwest Arkansas, this year. He struggled in NWA but he’s putting on a good showing so far for the Saguaros with an .868 OPS buoyed by his .462 OBP. He’s walked eight times and walked nine which sounds good until you realize he’s also only played nine games. That strikeout rate seems likely to catch up to him.
If you thought Heath’s strikeouts were a problem, you’re not going to be happy checking out the stats of probably the most important name to keep an eye on, outfielder Khalil Lee. Lee has made some versions of the Top 100 Prospects list but he’s struggling a bit in Arizona with thirteen strikeouts already compared to only three walks. He does have the only home run among the Royals’ position players in Surprise, at least, and his ISO is a clean .131 but his batting average is only .211. Here’s hoping he can get it together before the end of the AFL.