If the Braves plan to pack their Gold Gloves sign, a tribute to the organization’s all-time best defensive talents that’s been on display between the clubhouse and dugout for years, for their move from Turner Field to SunTrust Park, it will need to be updated. Ender Inciarte’s name needs to be added.
The Braves’ standout center fielder captured his first career Gold Glove on Tuesday night, beating out fellow National League finalists Billy Hamilton (Reds) and Odubel Herrera (Phillies).
Hamilton was Inciarte's only true threat to steal the National League's center-field spot. The two were neck-and-neck in many advanced statistics, but the only two NL outfielders with more total defensive runs saved were corner outfielders Jason Heyward and Starling Marte.
The Braves acquired Inciarte, 25, for this exact reason. Even as Inciarte played all three outfield positions for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, only Tampa Bay Rays Gold Glove outfielder Kevin Kiermaier logged more total defensive runs saved last season. The fact that Inciarte, who was acquired along with Atlanta's top prospect and starting shortstop Dansby Swanson and right-hander Aaron Blair in the Shelby Miller blockbuster last offseason, blossomed into a top-tier leadoff hitter in the season's second half (125 weighted runs created plus, .396 on-base percentage) was an added bonus.
He finished the season with a career-high 3.5 wins above replacement, built around his defensive value and second-half explosion at the plate.
As Braves manager Brian Snitker said after that play, “If that doesn't win him the Gold Glove, then I don't know what will. I've been saying it all along, the guy is unbelievable.”
It certainly didn't hurt his candidacy.
Inciarte is the first Braves center fielder since Andruw Jones to win a Gold Glove. He joins Heyward, Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Marquis Grissom and Hank Aaron as the sixth Braves outfielder to capture the award.
Braves right fielder Nick Markakis was also a 2016 NL Gold Glove finalist, but Heyward took home the award for NL right fielders for the third straight seasons.