The 2021 season was the ninth straight season where SABR's Defensive Index (SDI) was used as part of the voting process for awarding Gold Gloves. Votes from managers and coaches count for 75% of the final results, while SDI is worth approximately 25%. According to SABR, "The SDI draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts, including data from MLBAM's Statcast, Sports Information Solutions, and STATS, LLC."
Here is where qualified Twins players finished in the SDI rankings along with some places where Minnesota can improve in 2022:
Catcher: Ryan Jeffers (1.0 SDI)
Among qualified AL catchers, Ryan Jeffers finished eighth according to SDI. Oakland's Sean Murphy won the Gold Glove and was the AL leader at 6.8 SDI. Jeffers has been touted for his catching ability throughout his professional career, and some of those results showed up on the field last season. However, his struggles at the plate forced the team to demote him to Triple-A, limiting him to 85 big-league games in 2021. Jeffers may see his playing time increase next season if the Twins decide to trade Mitch Garver this winter.
First Base: Miguel Sanó (-5.6 SDI)
First base can be one of the team's most straightforward defensive fixes for 2022. Only one AL first baseman, Boston's Bobby Dalbec, ranked lower than Miguel Sanó when it comes to SDI. Alex Kirilloff is a better defender at first base, and he should start to get more reps at that position next season. Sanó can rotate through first base and designated hitter roles depending on the pitching match-up on any given day. First base defense can be overlooked, but Kirilloff presents an easy upgrade for the Twins.
Second Base: Jorge Polanco (2.8 SDI)
Last winter, Minnesota made a significant defensive upgrade at second base by moving Jorge Polanco away from shortstop. He finished the season as the AL's fourth highest-ranked second baseman, according to SDI. Polanco stayed healthy for all of 2021, and the results speak for themselves on both sides of the ball. Minnesota gave Polanco 39 appearances at shortstop last year, and the team is in the market for a shortstop this winter. It's in the team's best interest to keep Polanco at second base for the long term.
Third Base: Luis Arraez (1.4 SDI)
Josh Donaldson has been considered a solid defensive player throughout his career, but he didn't make enough defensive appearances to appear on the SDI Leaderboard. Luis Arraez finished fifth among AL third basemen according to SDI, which may come as a surprise. Minnesota moved Arraez to a utility role entering last season because his defense was below average at second base. Arraez, Donaldson, and Jose Miranda will all get time at third base in 2022. This is quite the defensive turnaround for Arraez, and it is certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (11.8 SDI)
Even in a poor offensive season, Andrelton Simmons ranked among baseball's best on the defensive side of the ball. Houston's Carlos Correa, the eventual Gold Glove winner, was the lone player ranked higher than Simmons among AL shortstops. In fact, only two players, Correa and Kansas City's Michael Taylor, finished with a higher SDI. The only way to keep this kind of defensive output at shortstop is to sign Correa to a giant contract or keep Simmons around on a cheap deal.
Outfield: Max Kepler (5.4 SDI)
Max Kepler was the only player to make enough appearances to qualify for the season-ending leaderboard among Minnesota's outfielders. He finished fifth among AL right-fielders when it came to SDI. There is an argument to be made that he should have been one of the Gold Glove finalists at his position. One of the easiest ways for Minnesota to improve its outfield defense is to have Byron Buxton on the field more regularly. An outfield with Buxton and Kepler can make up for whatever player roams in left field for the club.
Where do you think the Twins can make the most defensive improvement next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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