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Gold Glove D-backs Finalists: CF, Alek Thomas

Can our rookie pull off the upset?

Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The candidates

  • Alek Thomas, ARI
  • Trent Grisham, SD
  • Victor Robles, WSH

The gap in name recognition likely isn't as much here, as it is for Daulton Varsho in right. But Thomas still has less than five months and only 113 games in the majors, compared to 343 and 480 games for Grisham and Robles respectively. Trent is a previous Gold Glove winner, albeit in 2020, with the mental asterisk which goes with everything about that year. In particular, with schedules geographically limited, Gold Gloves that season were determined purely statistically, with no voting. Victor would be a first-time winner like Thomas, with a 6th-place finish in the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year his sole honor of note. He is all glove: over the past three years, his 69 OPS+ ranks Robles 240th of 243 (min 750 PA).

The reality remains though: it’s hard for a rookie to win a Gold Glove. Only three have done so since the Diamondbacks joined the league: Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, Nolan Arenado (2013) and Luis Robert in 2020 - the last, again, with that asterisk... Perception and familiarity are undeniably part of the equation: last year, five of the nine NL Gold Gloves went to previous winners of the award. That would give Grisham an edge, especially with last year’s winner, Harrison Bader not making the short-list this season.

The stats

There isn’t the same gap in playing time as Varsho has to overcome either. Grisham is ahead, on 1,143 IP, but Robles (971.2) and Thomas (907.1) are not particularly far behind, with all three men in the top seven for innings played at center in the NL this year. Here are your old-school stats for the trio of candidates at this position/

  • Thomas: 112 G, 102 GS, 96 CG, 907.1 IP, 318 Ch, 311 Outs, 4 As, 3 E, .991 F%
  • Grisham: 148 G, 124 GS, 118 CG, 1143.0 IP, 346 Ch, 341 Outs, 3 As, 2 E, .994 F%
  • Robles: 128 G, 110 GS, 100 CG, 971.2 IP, 353 Ch, 340 Outs, 7 As, 6 E, .983 F%

What stands out here is Robles’s apparent tendency to be “all or nothing”. His seven assists led the league... but so did his six errors. This may be the sign of a good defender. He can get to balls a lower-tier outfielder wouldn’t even reach, but if he doesn’t come up with it, this can lead to an error being charged, which the same lower-tier outfielder would escape. Grisham, with the fewest assists and errors of the finalists, could be considered as that, and he has also recorded the lowest rate of outs per inning. But what do the more in-depth stats say about the three center-fielders? Here’s a chart...

2022 Gold Glove Finalists: CF

Player Rtot Rtot/yr Rdrs Rdrs/yr UZR UZR/150 Def OAA
Player Rtot Rtot/yr Rdrs Rdrs/yr UZR UZR/150 Def OAA
Thomas 11 14 6 8 4.2 5 2.6 6
Grisham 16 17 8 8 4 3.6 10.3 17
Robles 4 5 12 15 4.8 5.8 4 5
  • RTot = Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average (/yr = scaled to 1,200 innings)
  • Rdrs = BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average (/yr = scaled to 1,200 innings)
  • DRS = The Fielding Bible Defensive Runs Saved
  • UZR = Fangraphs Ultimate Zone Rating (/150 = scaled to 150 games)
  • Def = Fangraphs Defensive Runs Above Average
  • OAA = StatCast Outs Above Average

There’s no clear consensus to be found here. Of the five “scaled” i.e. per season metrics, Grisham leads in three, and Robles in two, but Thomas is second (or tied) in all except Def, so is consistent across the methods. If we take an average of the five, then Grisham had the highest figure, at 11.1, with Thomas second (7.1), just ahead of Robles (7.0). It feels like the Padres is probably going to be the man to beat in this category.

Let’s go to the tape...

In contrast to the traditional stats, it was Grisham who also delivered the most highlight reel plays, with catches StatCast classified as 5-star, while Thomas had one and Robles didn’t manage any. However, regardless of what Statcast says, Alek certainly delivered no shortage of web gems. Here are some of the best. I’d say his home-run robbery of Joey Votto was perhaps the best, and may well show up when we have our Play of the Year candidates, later in the off-season. But let us know in the comments which was your favorite, and also what you think Thomas’s chances are of having to clear space on his mantelpiece...


Who will win the NL Gold Glove in CF?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Alek Thomas
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    Victor Robles
    (2 votes)
  • 57%
    Trent Grisham
    (36 votes)
63 votes total Vote Now