Image credit: Yadier Molina (Photo by Russell Lansford/Getty Images)
The 2018 Gold Glove awards were announced on Sunday night. Thanks to some tweaks in the voting, the most baffling choices that once were a yearly ritual of the awards have been eliminated. But now that the awards have been announced, we thought it would be worthwhile to see how the Gold Glove winners fared on their way up through the minors. Each year Baseball America’s organization best tools look at the best defensive catcher, infielder and outfielder for each farm system, plus the best infield and outfield arms. We also rank the best defenders at catcher, each infield position and for the outfield overall in each league for our league best tools.
And as you might expect, the best defenders in the big leagues usually showed they were great when they were in the minors.
NL Winner: Yadier Molina, St, Louis
Molina won his ninth Gold Glove award. When he was in the minors, he was named the Cardinals best defensive catcher after the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons.
AL Winner: Salvador Perez, Kansas City
This was Perez’s fifth Gold Glove. Like Molina, he was considered his organization’s best defensive catcher from a very early age. He was named the Royals Best Defensive Catcher in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
NL Winner: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
It’s very tough for a first baseman to win an organizational defensive best tool as we rank all infielders, but Freeman was considered the best defensive first baseman in the Carolina and Southern Leagues in 2009 and the best defensive first baseman in the International League in 2010.
AL Winner: Matt Olson, Oakland
This was Olson’s first Gold Glove. He bounced between the outfield and first base in the minors, but was named the best defensive first baseman in the California League in 2014.
NL Winner: D.J. Lemahieu, Colorado
Second base is one spot where we had no advanced indicators in our best tools. LeMahieu won awards for his hitting, but none for his defense.
AL Winner: Ian Kinsler, Boston
Like LeMahieu, Kinsler did not win any defensive best tools awards, although he did for hitting.
NL Winner: Nick Ahmed, Arizona
The Braves had a bounty of great defenders. Ahmed and AL winner Andrelton Simmons were both in the Braves organization at the same time. Ahmed was rated as the Braves Best Defensive Infielder in 2012 and then was the D-Backs Best Defensive Infielder in 2013.
AL Winner: Andrelton Simmons, L.A. Angels
Simmons was the Braves Best Defensive Infielder in 2010-2011 and Best Infield Arm in 2010-2011 as well. He was also considered an outstanding pitching prospect if he wanted to take that railgun of an arm to the mound. He made the right call to stick in the field.
NL Winner: Nolan Arenado, Colorado
Arenado was not always a great defender. Early in his pro career it looked like he would have to move off the position. But he worked hard at improving and by 2012 he was rated as the Rockies Best Defensive Infielder.
AL Winner: Matt Chapman, Oakland
There was never any question about Chapman’s defense and his arm was always considered to be a near top-of-the-scale weapon. He was twice the A’s Best Defensive Infielder (2015 and 2017) and won Best Infield Arm for the A’s three times (2015-2017).
NL Winner: Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh
Dickerson joins the second basemen as the only Gold Glove winners who never were cited for their defensive tools in the minors.
AL Winner: Alex Gordon, Kansas City
Gordon was a third baseman until well into his big league career, but before he slid to the outfield he was rated as the Best Defensive Third Baseman in the Texas League in 2006.
NL Winner: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta
Inciarte played in the same organization as A.J. Pollock on his way up, so Pollock kept blocking him from winning Best Defensive Outfielder, but Inciarte was rated as the D-Backs Best Outfield Arm after the 2013 season.
AL Winner: Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston
Bradley’s outstanding defense was always his best attribute at South Carolina and after he was drafted. Bradley was rated as the Red Sox Best Defensive Outfielder from 2011 to 2013.
NL Winner: Nick Markakis, Atlanta
Markakis was both a pitching prospect and a position player prospect when the Orioles drafted him out of Young Harris (Ga.) JC. Hitting has worked out for him. He was the Orioles Best Defensive Outfielder after the 2005 season.
AL Winner: Mookie Betts, Boston
Betts was a shortstop turned second baseman in the minor leagues. He moved to the outfield as a major leaguer to get his bat into the lineup, but his defense and athleticism was an asset in the dirt as well. He ranked as the Eastern League’s Best Defensive Infielder in 2014. Deven Marrero’s presence meant he never won a Red Sox’s Best Defensive Infielder award.