StaTuesday: Buxton rises to top in early defensive ratings for 2019 Twins

The Minnesota Twins might be the “#BombaSquad,” but they’re playing some quality defense too.

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) released the latest update to its SABR Defensive Index (SDI) last week, and as expected, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton ranks near the top of the leaderboard.

If phrases like “batted ball location-based metrics” and “runs effectively defended” aren’t quite within your purview, SABR breaks the whole thing down here.

If that’s still a bit much, just know that SABR aggregates a bunch of different ways by which defensive success is measured, and spits out a number, positive or negative, with zero being the league average.

That number accounts for about 25% of the Gold Glove selection process later on.

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Buxton, for example, won a Gold Glove in 2017 after finishing with a rating of 20, two points behind Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts.

SABR’s latest update covers games played through June 16, and the Twins’ outfield continues to rate highly.

Buxton ranks second amongst all AL defenders with a 7.1, behind only Oakland A’s shortstop Marcus Semien (8.4).

Houston’s Jake Marisnick is the closest center fielder to Buxton at 6.2 while Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermeier is at 5.1. Just in case you still aren’t convinced how good a defensive player Buxton is, no other center fielder in the major leagues is higher than 3.2.

The Twins are getting quality defense from Buxton’s neighbor in right field, Max Kepler, who signed a five-year extension in the offseason.

Kepler (4.1) trails only Betts at their position.

Meanwhile, Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario (0.3) ranks just above average.

Elsewhere, Marwin Gonzalez (4.1) ranks third amongst third basemen, although he’s played all over the infield and outfield this season. Ehire Adrianza (0.3) rates slightly above average at the position, while Miguel Sano (-0.9) is near the bottom of the list.

C.J. Cron (0.3) has been perfectly serviceable at first base, while shortstop Jorge Polanco (-0.5), an MVP candidate for his performance at the plate, is in the bottom half defensively. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop also has been just below par, at -0.7.

The Twins’ rotation, meanwhile, rates somewhere between good and slightly below average.

Martin Perez (1.2) leads the group defensively, tied with Glenn Sparkman of the Kansas City Royals for third, followed by Jake Odorizzi (0), Jose Berrios (-0.5), Michael Pineda (-0.7) and Kyle Gibson (-0.8).

Catcher Mitch Garver hasn’t been just raking at the plate, he’s been pretty good behind the dish, as well, with a 0.5 SDI rating. Jason Castro, though, is at -2.0. But that’s a far cry from Seattle catcher Oscar Navarez, who at -7.5 has the worst SDI rating in the entire American League.