In what has turned out to be a longer run than you might expect, the Rockies have been a lock for at least one end-of-season award each year for the past decade. Nolan Arenado’s eight straight Gold Gloves has made the streak look easy, but contributions by Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos González in the early 2010’s give the Rockies an active streak of 11 seasons, having last been shutout in 2009.
But Arenado is gone and there are shoes left to fill in the hardware department. In order to keep the streak alive, someone else will have to win the vote and the Rockies do have a few candidates that could be deemed worthy.
Off the bat, let’s throw out a few categories. The Rockies have no horses in the race for the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Batting Title, Rookie of the Year, Reliever of the Year or Manager of the Year awards. There may be a down ballot vote or two cast for a member of the Rockies in any of these categories, but there is no world where a representative from Colorado wins any of these National League awards.
That leaves us with two races: the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. In these positional accolades, the Rockies have a few players who make a strong case. We’ll look at the Gold Glove contenders today and save the Silver Slugger conversation for tomorrow.
The voting for the Gold Glove award is not perfect. The days of Rafael Palmeiro winning despite playing only 28 games in the field are gone, but that doesn’t mean all the wrinkles in the process have been ironed out. There is still a very subjective lens used in the voting for these awards, but that doesn’t mean the cases a few Colorado fielders are making won’t be good enough to win.
Díaz taking home a gold glove may be the toughest case to make. He has put together a strong season defensively, but the catching talent in the National League may be too deep to overcome. Yadier Molina’s nine Gold Gloves are the most of any active player and his 1.4 dWAR is third to Pittsburgh’s Jacob Stalling and the Cubs’ Wilson Contreras. Stallings and Contreras themselves are worthy candidates, as is Philadelphia backstop J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best catcher in the game today.
NL Catcher Candidates
But Díaz’s 5 defensive runs saved are higher than Realmuto and on par with Molina, and he has shut down the running game better than anyone in the league. At 43%, Díaz boasts the highest caught-stealing percentage of any qualified catcher in the N.L. this season and his 21 stolen bases allowed are the fewest among the group as well.
It may not be enough for Díaz to take home the award, but he has certainly put himself in the conversation.
Ryan McMahon leads the National League in defensive WAR. Yes, you read that correctly. At 2.7 dWAR, no one in the National League has been more valuable to their team in the field this season than McMahon. McMahon’s 9 defensive runs saved (DRS) at second base leads the league and his 14 at third base trails only Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates.
The versatile excellence McMahon has displayed this season has been extraordinary in both the eye test and the analytics, however that versatility could be a determinant when it comes to the voters.
McMahon has appeared in 105 games at third base this season and 51 games at second base. To lead the league in DRS at a position while only playing a third of your games there is remarkable, and hopefully the voters will be able to acknowledge that. But, there’s also a strong chance the voters could dismiss his figures from the middle of the diamond in favor of a more full-time candidate like Ozzie Albies of the Braves or Tommy Edman from the St. Louis Cardinals.
NL 2B Candidates
When it comes to third base, McMahon actually has more games played at the corner this season than Hayes does, but the argument you could make for McMahon at second could be made for Hayes at third. And then there is the reigning eight time winner of the award, Nolan Arenado, to overcome. Arenado has once again played to a level worthy of a Gold Glove, and his numbers this season plus the active streak of dominance at the position over the past decade may be enough for the voters to hand him the award once again.
NL 3B Candidates
There’s no question McMahon is deserving of a Gold Glove this season, but the versatility that makes him so valuable may ultimately be what keeps him from winning a vote at either position.
Story feels like the best bet for the Rockies to take home a Gold Glove for the twelfth straight season. Although Story has always been regarded as an excellent defensive player, he has never won the award. However, he seems to make the best case of anyone at the position in the National League this season.
NL Shortstop Candidates
Across the board, Story is either at or near the top of every advanced defensive metric for NL shortstops. His 1.5 dWAR leads all competitors, as does his 8 defensive runs saved. In total zone rating (Rtz) Story trails only Kevin Newman of the Pirates while only Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves has played more games than Story at the position this season. For good measure, Story also has the most double-plays turned at 84.
Plain and simple, Story deserves to win his first Gold Glove this year and could ultimately be the best chance a Rockies player has to take home some hardware from the 2021 season.
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‘We need to get back’: Kyle Freeland can taste the playoffs, even as his Rockies fall | The Athletic ($)
A member of the 2017 and 2018 playoff teams, Kyle Freeland is no stranger to the postseason hunt in his young career. While the Rockies are out of the hunt this season, this week’s series against the Dodgers and Giants is a unique flip of the script from where Freeland was in 2018, and Dodger’s ace Max Scherzer is now. Freeland and the Rockies are out of the hunt this season, but are still hoping to fill the role of spoiler as Scherzer did three years ago in a Nationals’ uniform against Colorado. The Rockies are on the outside looking in once again in 2021, but Freeland learned to appreciate the moments when his club is in the hunt because they don’t always come around.
Joshua Fuentes had a fine evening on Thursday in a 13-5 Isotopes’ victory against the Reno Aces. After a triple in the first inning, single in the third and double in the fifth, Fuentes capped off his cycle in dramatic fashion with a grand-slam in the sixth inning. He finished a perfect 4-for-4 with six runs driven in and admitted to the performance being the first time he had hit for the cycle in his baseball career.
On the farm
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 7, Reno Aces 5
After the heroics of Joshua Fuentes’ cycle Thursday evening, the Isotopes put together another miraculous performance on Friday in a dramatic comeback win against Reno. Albuquerque did not hold the lead until the last pitch of the ballgame, but still came away with a victory. Trailing 5-2 heading into the final frame, Elehuris Montero doubled to cut the deficit to two runs. Greg Bird singled to bring in Fuentes and Montero home, tying up the game at five. Alan Trejo was next in the lineup and would be the hero this night, sending a two-run home run over the left field fence for a walk-off victory.
The Spokane Indians saw their season come to an end on Friday night as they lost to the Eugene Emarlds for the third time in the best-of-five High-A West Championship. Spokane could muster only three hits against four Eugene hurlers and struck out 12 times in the ballgame. Brenton Doyle registered a triple for one the Indians’ three hits and Finn Del Bonta-Smith struck out eight in 3 2⁄3 innings of relief.
Sitting 37-41 at the end of June, the Indians went 30-9 the rest of the season just to get to the championship despite losing some of they key players to promotion. It was a spectacular finish to the 2021 season by Spokane despite coming up short in the playoffs.
Despite out-hitting the opposition, the Fresno Grizzlies also saw their season come to a close in a loss to a San Francisco Giants’ affiliate. Robby Martin Jr. gave Fresno the early lead with a two run single in the top of the first inning, but unfortunately that did not last long. Noah Gotsis got the start for the Grizzlies and allowed three runs in the first inning, giving San Jose the lead for good. The Giants would eventually run away with the game with runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth inning. Fresno had their chances, leaving 14 runners on base in the matchup.
The Grizzlies were swept in a best-of-five series, but finished the year with a 74-41 regular season record in another season to be proud of by a Rockies’ affiliate.
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