The Royals showed they could flash some leather this year, finishing fifth in baseball in Defensive Runs Above Average, according to Fangraphs. They could have as many as five Gold Glove finalists this season - Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael A. Taylor. Let’s show the glove some love with a look back at the top Royals defensive plays of 2021.
April 14 - Salvy ends the game with a pickoff
Knock Salvador Perez for his framing all you want, but the man’s arm is still unrivaled in baseball. He threw out 44 percent of would-be basestealers, the highest rate of any catcher who caught at least 60 games, and led all catchers in assists.
He showed off his arm and his blocking ability in a game against the Angels in April. The Royals clung to a 3-2 lead in the ninth as the Angels loaded the bases. Greg Holland bounced a pitch in the dirt against Jared Walsh, and David Fletcher wandered off third base hoping the ball would squirt away far enough to allow him to score the game-tying run. But the ball fortunately bounced and hit batter Jared Walsh in the beans, landing back at Salvy’s feet. He alertly scooped the ball up and fired to third to nail Fletcher to end the game.
May 19 - Michael A. Taylor robs a home run
The Royals have a strong tradition of ballhawks in centerfield from Amos Otis to Willie Wilson to Carlos Beltran to Lorenzo Cain. Michael A. Taylor was brought in to continue that tradition and he did not disappoint, leading all outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved.
He perhaps saved some runs in a May 19 game against the Brewers when Jackie Bradley, Jr, crushed a ball 414 feet, a ball that would normally have an expected batting average of .640 and would have left the ballpark in 19 other stadiums. But that’s not accounting for Taylor, who ran back to the fence and grabbed the ball just before it disappeared over the wall.
“It was high enough,” he said, “I felt like I had a chance as long as I didn’t run out of room.”
June 4 - Dyson shows that’s what speed can still do
The Royals had some reunions this year, bringing back veterans like Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana, and Jarrod Dyson. Dyson showed the glove that endeared him to fans in a June 4 game against Minnesota
With Santana on the mound, Willians Astudillo laced a drive to that deep left-field alley at Kauffman Stadium. Dyson casually ran back, and slammed against the fence for the catch, showing us all what speed can still do at age 36.
June 13 - Hunter Dozier shows he can play defense
It was a rough year for Hunter Dozier both at the plate, and in the field where he was one of the worst defenders in baseball according to the metrics. But he was still capable of some highlight reel plays, like he did on June 13 in Oakland. Playing right field, Dozier was able to close ground on a shallow Sean Murphy pop up in the gap and make a diving catch.
July 23 - Nicky Lopez shows off his arm
Remember when there were questions about whether Nicky Lopez could stick at shortstop because of his arm? He put those doubts to rest with a fantastic defensive year, finishing second among all shortstops in Defensive Runs Above Average. You could really put any of these highlight reel plays he made this year, but I’ll highlight these play on July 23 against Detroit, when Robbie Grossman laced one in the hole for a seemingly sure single, only to see Nicky spear it and fire a strike to first while falling to the left side of the infield.
Kris Bubic just watched in amazement at his defense. Stunning play by Nicky Lopez to end the top of the 5th. pic.twitter.com/E9ZrVl0dGr— Joel Goldberg (@goldbergkc) July 24, 2021
September 1 - A kick save assist from Josh Staumont
Josh Staumont is known for his arm, tossing more 100 mph fastballs than almost anyone else in baseball. But he used his feet to rob Franmil Reyes of a hit in a game on September 1. Reyes laced a one-hopper back to the mound, and off the back of Staumont’s foot. He kicked it up in the air, but first baseman Carlos Santana was alert enough to grab the ball and tag Reyes for the out. It was a play that would make any hockey player proud.
October 2 - Benny ends the season with a bang
Andrew Benintendi had an up-and-down first season in Kansas City, but he ended it on a tear with the bat. He also showed he could flash some glove in the last series of the year against the Twins. With two runners on in the eighth, Max Kepler laced a drive into the left-center gap. Benintendi got fully extended and made a terrific diving catch to rob an extra-base hit and keep runs off the board.
Any others? What did I miss?
What was your favorite Royals defensive play of 2021?
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Salvy picks off a runner to end the game
Michael Taylor robs a home run
Jarrod Dyson catch at the wall
Hunter Dozier diving catch
Nicky Lopez deep in the hole
Josh Staumont kick save
Andrew Benintendi diving catch