By MARK SIMON
Rockies infielder Ryan McMahon was born to play baseball.
“My grandfather got me a glove when I was just born. I used that all through Little League,” McMahon said on the most recent episode of the Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast (listen here).
McMahon has been well versed in the fundamentals of the game his entire life. That has propelled him to being among the top defensive players in baseball this season. He is currently tied with Adam Duvall for the MLB lead in Defensive Runs Saved.
What’s impressive is that he does it well at two positions, second base (7 Runs Saved) and third base (3).
“Third base, I’m just trying to react and be ready,” McMahon said. “Second base, I definitely lean with the pitch a little bit more, try to be leaning one way or the other.”
McMahon’s defensive play has stood out on a team that traded its best defensive player this past offseason. His style of play has produced more reward than risk.
“Loose, lean with pitches,” he said, explaining his approach. “I’m not afraid to guess wrong on somebody and lean the other way. I think that’s also what makes me good. I’m not the fastest guy. So getting good jumps and good reads is important to me.”
Take a look at the Defensive Runs Saved leaderboard and you’ll see several players who, like McMahon, are versatile. Here are three of the best in 2021.
Ha-seong Kim, Padres Utility
Ha-seong Kim has been a valuable member of the Padres infield, particularly in defensive shifts. His 9 Runs Saved are one off the MLB lead. He has 4 Runs Saved filling in at shortstop for Fernando Tatis Jr., he has 3 (in five games) at second base, and he has 2 at third base.
Of those 9 Runs Saved, 5 have come when the Padres have used a shift. The Padres rank 2nd in MLB in ground ball and bunt out conversion rate overall and No. 1 when using a full defensive shift. Kim plays multiple roles in that depending on what position he’s playing.
Max Muncy, Dodgers 1B/2B
Like Kim, Max Muncy has 9 Runs Saved, 1 shy of the MLB lead. He’s split them between first base (5) and second base (4 in 19 games).
He’s nimble enough to make plays like this
and surehanded enough to handle hard-hit rockets as well.
Marwin Gonzalez, Red Sox utility
When it comes to versatility, Marwin Gonzalez seems to have everyone else beat. He’s saved 3 runs at second base, two at shortstop, and one apiece at first base and right field.
He’s someone who is both adaptable and can cover a lot of ground
Tommy Edman, Cardinals Utility
As the Cardinals broadcaster says in this clip “You can count on him!”
The Cardinals have counted on Tommy Edman to make great plays wherever he’s been.
He currently leads the majors with 19 Good Fielding Plays with this one being a good example of what he can do, whether he’s at second base, shortstop, or in the outfield.
Check out our interview with Edman earlier this season (listen here).
Manuel Margot, Rays OF
While there is a difference between infielders who can play multiple positions and outfielders who can do so, what Manuel Margot is doing this season for the Rays is pretty good. If we’re going to pick one outfielder who has split time between three spots, we’ll go with Margot over the previously-mentioned Duvall (who’s pretty good too)
Margot’s played the bulk of his innings in right field and saved 4 runs there. But he’s also saved 3 runs in left field and 1 in center field. Margot has finished on the plus side in Defensive Runs Saved in each of his previous five MLB seasons. The last two with Tampa Bay, he’s shown that he can handle any of the three spots.
2021 Defensive Runs Saved Leaders