In a crowded group of highly-talented center fielders, it has been tough for Adam Engel to stand out from the rest. But in August he did. He’s our selection as the MLB Defensive Player of the Month.
Engel finished the month with eight Defensive Runs Saved, the most by any outfielder. Half of that total was accumulated from three amazing home run robberies in a seven-day span. Engel snagged one from Greg Bird on Aug. 6, Kyle Higashioka the next day and Yonder Alonso on Aug. 12. He’s the first player in the 15 seasons for which we’ve tracked home run robberies to have three in a week’s span. His three home run robberies are the most of anyone in the majors this season.
Engel has saved six runs this season after costing his team a run in center field in his rookie season, 2017. One change to his defensive game is that he’s playing deeper this year. Engel was usually the shallowest playing outfielder or close to it in the various AL ballparks last season, but he’s moved back eight to 12 feet in most parks. That may have given him a better chance at those would-be home runs.
Engel is not typically a leaper – he has only four jumping catches all season (by contrast, Billy Hamilton has 16), but he is a sprinter. His 57 sprinting catches trail only Ender Inciarte’s 72 for most in MLB by a center fielder.
Engel has also made improvements in his arm rating. Last season, he allowed 54 percent of runners to advance an extra-base on hits, and recorded only one unaided outfield assist (without a cutoff man). The advance rate against him is similar this season, but he has three unaided assists.
The runner-up for the August award was Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, a defensive standard-setter, whose 89 DRS are the most in the majors from 2015 to 2017. For Engel to beat Kiermaier out, you know he really earned the award.