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MLB's Rising Defensive Stars

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A year ago at this time I wrote about MLB’s rising defensive stars, and now seems like a good time to do that again looking to 2024.

There are 4 players on active rosters this spring who will be in their age-23-or-younger season in 2024* and who had at least 10 Defensive Runs Saved in the major leagues in 2023. They’re in our spotlight heading into the upcoming season.

* Age 23 or younger as of June 30, 2024

Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe totaled 15 Runs Saved and won the AL Gold Glove last season. Volpe played the 2nd-most innings of any shortstop in the majors (only Francisco Lindor played more). With his defense solid (he’s particularly good on balls hit to his left), improving his hitting figures to be a high priority in 2024. He had a .666 OPS in 2023.

Phillies center fielder Johan Rojas was outstanding after being recalled from the minor leagues, amassing 15 Runs Saved in 57 games. Combine that with his minor league-best total of 15 Runs Saved and Rojas had an epic defensive season. Rojas placed 9th in The Fielding Bible Awards voting among center fielders last year. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in 2024.

Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson played an almost identical number of innings at shortstop and third base last season. He was better at shortstop, amassing 10 of his 13 Runs Saved. Henderson finished with 6.2 bWAR in 2023. With a good defensive season and solid offensive numbers again, he may be in line for something better in 2024.

Rockies shortstop Ezequiel Tovar’s defensive play was one of the highlights of a rough season for a last-place team. His 13 Runs Saved ranked 4th at the position. Like Volpe, Tovar played a lot. He ranked 5th among shortstops in innings played and had an impressive reel of standout defensive plays.

One other player I want to point out is Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams who finished with 4 Runs Saved in 2023. Abrams' defensive game took a major step forward in 2023 as he improved from -5 Runs Saved in 2022. Though his throwing issues kept him from being in the same class as the quartet above, his defensive stock is up heading into 2024.

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