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The Best and Worst Defensive Players So Far This Season

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Thus far during the 2017 season, Mookie Betts sits atop the Defensive Runs Saved leaderboard, saving 28 runs in right field for the Boston Red Sox.

2017 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) Leaders
Player Primary Pos DRS
Mookie Betts RF 28
Andrelton Simmons SS 23
Byron Buxton CF 21
Nolan Arenado 3B 18
Jedd Gyorko 3B 17
Jason Heyward RF 17
Martin Maldonado C 17

It has been an encore performance for Betts as he led all of Major League Baseball by saving 32 runs in 2016. This figure was seven runs ahead of the next ranked player from last season, Kevin Kiermaier. Given that Kiermaier was able to save 26 runs in 2016 and 42 runs in 2015 (the most by any player in a given season since Baseball Info Solutions began tracking the data in 2003), the 2017 season had the potential to be a defensive showdown for the ages between these two AL East outfield glove wizards. Alas it was not to be, as similar to the 2016 season Kiermaier has missed significant time this year due to injury (hip fracture). In contrast to Kiermaier, Betts has been healthy all season and is on pace to improve on his stellar 2016 defensive performance.

So far during the 2017 season, Betts has proven well-suited to covering Fenway Park’s tricky right field as he ranks first in the major leagues in the range and positioning component of DRS with 24 runs saved. In particular, Betts excels on sinking line drives and short fly balls hit to shallow right field. On these types of batted balls to short right field, Betts has made 18 plays above average.

Here are the worst defensive players so far this season:

2017 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) Trailers
Player Primary Pos DRS
Denard Span CF -23
Asdrubal Cabrera SS -19
Jose Reyes SS -16
Melky Cabrera LF -14
Xander Bogaerts SS -13
Nick Castellanos 3B -13
Jonathan Lucroy C -13
Daniel Murphy 2B -13

Unfortunately for the San Francisco Giants, Denard Span has been the worst defensive player thus far during 2017. This season marks Span’s third consecutive season of costing his team at least seven runs in center field (-10 DRS in 2015 and -7 DRS in 2016). As injuries and age continue to take a toll on Span, the Giants may be best served moving him to a corner outfield spot and bringing in a more adequate defensive center fielder. Two New York Mets infielders (Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes) rank right behind Span in subpar defensive performance in 2017. Although the Mets’ starting rotation has performed below expectations this season due to injury and ineffectiveness, the inability of Cabrera and Reyes to convert batted balls into outs has done Mets pitching no favors.

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