Arenado, Betts, Buxton, Inciarte, Simmons nominated for Esurance MLB Award
By Oliver Macklin
They dazzle on defense, making even the toughest of plays look routine. Each and every night, one of these players makes our jaws drop any time they flash the leather.
As baseball continues to undergo a statistics revolution, we now have more information than ever about how defenders stack up against one another in addition to the eye test. So if it wasn't clear before, we can be certain now -- each of these glovemen ranks near the top of the league, no matter what metric you use.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor Major League Baseball's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American League and the National League from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Hall of Famers, team general managers, broadcast-booth legends and you will be among those helping to pick this year's Best Major Leaguer, in addition to the winners in the following categories: Best Pitcher, Best Rookie, Best Defensive Player, Best Manager, Best Executive, Best Personality, Best Postseason Moment and Best Postseason Performer.
One winner in each category will also be recognized for the year's Best Offensive Play, Best Defensive Play, Best Single-Game Performance, Best Fan Catch, Best Call: TV/Radio and Best Player-Fan Interaction.
In addition to the aforementioned categories, a panel of MLB experts will identify and recognize the season's Best Moments and Best Trending Topics.
It should be unsurprising to see Arenado on this list, as the Rockies third baseman has been widely regarded as one of the best infielders in the game since entering the league in 2013. It seems like every night, Arenado completes at least one play that makes the highlight reel. It's common practice for the 26-year-old to display his unbelievable range, reliable hands and arm strength during every game.
Few outfielders have the incredible combination of range and arm strength as Betts, who is among the leaders in defensive runs saved in 2017. Betts constantly makes challenging catches look simple, and his 15 outs above average (OAA) rank third (min. 25 opportunities) among outfielders. Betts has converted more three- and four-star grabs (49 combined) than anyone in the game this season, per Statcast™.
No outfielder is graded more highly when it comes to OAA than Buxton. The Twins center fielder has recorded 24 outs above average this year, which is seven more than the No. 2-ranked player, Inciarte. Buxton also leads the Majors in four-star outs. The breakout star has converted an unfathomable 96.3 percent of his four-star opportunities and 95.5 percent of his three-star chances.
Inciarte is the NL leader in OAA (17) and has recorded the most five-star catches of anyone in baseball (six) this season, so it should not shock anyone to see the Braves outfielder make the group of nominees. Inciarte is easily one of the most underrated players in the game, thanks to his defensive prowess.
With a ridiculous 421 assists and a 4.28 range factor this season, Simmons is perhaps the greatest shortstop in the game today. At one of baseball's most demanding positions, Simmons routinely makes awe-inspiring plays with his unbelievable glove. His range, hands and rocket arm are unmatched at shortstop.
The winners will be announced on the MLB Esurance Awards Show, which will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com on Friday, Nov. 17. Some of the winners who accepted their trophies in person or live on the MLB Awards winners' program last year included Francisco Lindor, David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo and Corey Seager, so there's star power everywhere you turn.
Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @OMacklinMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.