Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One metric developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI).
According to SABR's website, 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." Since 2013, SDI has been used as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. The rankings below are through games played on June 19, 2022.
Pitcher (AL Ranking): No Twins Pitchers Qualify
SABR posts the top 35-40 pitchers in each league, but the Twins don't currently have any starting pitchers that qualify for the leaderboard. Injuries and COVID have sidelined multiple members of the starting staff, and the club has been careful with the number of innings thrown by each pitcher. Two former Twins pitchers are on the list, including Jose Berrios (0.7 SDI) and Martin Perez (-1.5 SDI). Berrios ranks in the top-10 among AL starters, while Perez is near the bottom of the leaderboard.
Catcher (AL Ranking): Ryan Jeffers 2.0 SDI (5th)
Ryan Jeffers has been touted for his defensive skills since he was a prospect. SDI has previously ranked him well when he has been on the field, and he has a chance to be a Gold Glove finalist in 2022. Three catchers will be named finalists for the AL, and Jeffers is only one SDI point from moving into the top three. His framing skills have improved from the 75th to the 78th percentile this season, but he struggles to control the running game.
First Base (AL Ranking): Luis Arraez 0.6 SDI (6th)
Entering the season, Luis Arraez wasn't in the team's plans for first base, but injuries and poor play moved him to a new position. It's hard to believe he ranks this well at an unfamiliar defensive position. Last season, Arraez saw an improved performance at third base when he was given more regular innings at the position. In 2022, Arraez will continue to rotate positions, so he will likely fall off the first base leaderboard as he accumulates more innings around the diamond.
Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco 0.6 SDI (7th)
Last season, Jorge Polanco finished in the top-four among AL second basemen, according to SDI. In 2022, a strong group of second basemen is separating themselves defensively. Former Twin Jonathan Schoop (5.3 SDI) and Boston's Trevor Story (4.8 SDI) are over one SDI point higher than anyone else on the leaderboard. It seems unlikely for Polanco to be able to accumulate enough SDI to catch some of the names ahead of him in the rankings.
Third Base (AL Ranking): Gio Urshela -1.4 SDI (11th)
Gio Urshela has been one of the team's defensive problems this season as he has the team's second-lowest Outs Above Average total. Last season, Arraez finished in the top-5 among AL third basemen according to SDI, so the Twins have seen quite the drop-off between those two players. Defensively, the Twins don't have a straightforward replacement for Urshela at third, so he will likely continue to see playing time at the hot corner.
Shortstop (AL Ranking): Carlos Correa -0.8 SDI (9th)
Carlos Correa's SDI ranking may be the most disappointing on the Twins. He dominated the 2021 SDI leaderboard with a 15.8 SDI total, four points higher than any other AL shortstop. Isaiah Kiner-Falefa was Minnesota's first shortstop option for 2022, and he ranks even worse than Correa (-1.1 SDI). As the season progresses, one would assume Correa starts moving up the leaderboard.
Left Field (AL Ranking): Trevor Larnach 2.8 SDI (3rd), Nick Gordon 0.5 SDI (5th)
During the 2021 season, Trevor Larnach ranked well according to SDI before being demoted to Triple-A. This season he has four outfield assists while also ranking in the 65th percentile for Outs Above Average. Nick Gordon has terrific speed, so he can easily track down balls in the outfield even though he is inexperienced at the position. Larnach's recent surgery can give the Twins more opportunity to use Gordon in left field.
Center Field (AL Ranking): No Twins Players Qualified
Byron Buxton's regularly scheduled days off and time as a designated hitter have minimized his innings in center field. He is still considered one of the game's best defenders, so his name should appear on the SDI rankings before the season ends.
Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler 2.2 SDI (4th)
Max Kepler continues to be a strong defender as he finished in the top-5 among AL right fielders last season. In previous seasons, the Twins needed to use Kepler as a replacement for Buxton in center field. Thankfully, Gilberto Celestino's emergence has allowed Kepler to stay in a corner outfield position. Kepler is among the team leaders in Outs Above Average, and he has an opportunity to be a Gold Glove finalist for the first time in his career.
SABR will continue to update the rankings periodically throughout the remainder of the season. Which rankings above surprise you the most? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.