The race for Defensive Player of the Month was a tight battle and, in the end, a pair of players tied for the top spot in our voting. So let’s salute Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner and Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon as June’s top defenders.
Turner is one of the most improved defensive players in baseball. He ended June with 10 Defensive Runs Saved. Eight of those runs saved came in the month of June.
Turner had 10 Good Fielding Plays (think Web Gems and plays like keeping a ball in the infield to prevent advancement), the most of any shortstop for the month. He’s shown significant range improvements on balls hit everywhere, but he’s ascended to an outstanding rating on balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole.
In June, the Nationals converted 25 of 32 ground balls hit into that hole into outs. The average team this season would have converted the play 21 times, the worst teams about 15 times.
Our video scouts alerted us that Turner is doing his best to keep the jump throw alive. He turned 8-of-9 into an out in June after converting 6-of-14 into outs in the first two months of the season. Turner’s 23 jump-throw attempts through the end of June are easily the most among shortstops. Trevor Story of the Rockies ranked second with 10.
Gordon doesn’t necessarily have a jump-throw equivalent, though he certainly impressed throughout the month for the Royals. He saved nine runs defensively, the most in the majors in June.
He entered July with 14 Defensive Runs Saved as a left fielder this season, one shy of Adam Duvall for the major league lead. Gordon has saved one more run there than he did in the previous two seasons combined. He has done this with both his glove and his arm.
His five unaided assists already match his total from last season. His 22 Good Fielding Plays are one shy of his 2017 total, in more than 700 fewer innings. He had 13 Good Fielding Plays in June (including this one). No other outfielder had more than eight.
At 34, Gordon is doing his best to hang with a new generation of outfielders that may be younger and faster but don’t have his experience.
“I think it’s just the discipline from day in day out, the way he prepares, the way he takes care of his body and then goes through his daily routine of shagging,” said Royals first base coach Mitch Maier, who also works with the team’s outfielders.
“It’s been the same since the first day he’s been in the outfield in 2010. The work has not changed, and it shows every day. He puts more work into it, the instincts, the reads off the bat, the jumps, the routes are as good as it gets, and it allows him to perform at a high level.”
One other player we should note is Texas Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields, who ranked third in our voting. DeShields saved eight runs (helped by a home run robbery). He leads all center fielders with 15 Defensive Runs Saved this season.