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Which Defensive Positions Have Been Most Valuable In 2021?

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The Nolan Arenado trade created a crater-sized hole for the Rockies at third base entering the 2021 season.

But though the Rockies have significantly struggled this season, they’ve filled the hot corner ably both offensively and defensively.

Ryan McMahon and Josh Fuentes entered Thursday hitting a combined .278 with 11 home runs, 38 RBI and an .841 OPS in 49 games this season.

They’ve also combined for 8 Defensive Runs Saved. That’s tied for the most Runs Saved by a team at any defensive position this season.

Fuentes has 5 of those Runs Saved (here’s an Arenado-like play showing his ability). McMahon has 3, but also has 7 Runs Saved at second base (here he is using Arenado’s barehand approach to get an out at the latter spot).

McMahon’s 10 Runs Saved overall trail only Marlins outfielder Adam Duvall (12) for the most in MLB.

That takes us to a statistic we’re guessing no one saw coming at the start of the season:

Rockies 3B: 8 Runs Saved
Nolan Arenado: 0 Runs Saved

The Rockies aren't the only team that has replaced a prominent player at third base and gotten strong defensive performance there. The Pirates have done so as well.

Pirates third basemen rank last among hot corner groupings with a .535 OPS in 2021. But with Ke’Bryan Hayes out for all but two games with a wrist injury, Erik Gonzalez, Phillip Evans, and five others have filled in well defensively. They’re the other team/position pair with 8 Runs Saved.

Gonzalez has an MLB-leading 6 Runs Saved at the position (you can see an example of his glove work here) and Evans is not far behind him with 4 in only 10 games (one of his better plays is this one).

Seven team/position combinations are one run shy of the Rockies and Pirates third base combinations.

Here’s the full leaderboard:

Most Runs Saved by a Position for a Team – 2021 Season

Team Position DRS Primary Player
Rockies 3B 8 Josh Fuentes
Pirates 3B 8 Erik Gonzalez
Padres 2B 7 Jake Cronenworth
Cardinals P 7 Many
Astros RF 7 Kyle Tucker
Marlins CF 7 Magneuris Sierra
Giants RF 7 Mike Yastrzemski
Mariners SS 7 J.P. Crawford
Rangers SS 7 Isiah Kiner-Falefa

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