Braves' Freddie Freeman named Defensive Player of the Year at first base
The accolades continue to pile up for the National League East champion Braves, as Freddie Freeman was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at first base.
Freeman was honored with the award Tuesday, two days after he earned his first Gold Glove -- and Atlanta claimed three overall -- as the Brave star shared the honor in the National League along with the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo.
A's third baseman Matt Chapman was named the overall Defensive Player of the Year, while the Diamondbacks were selected as the Defensive Team of the Year.
“It’s a great honor to win the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award,” Freeman said in a statement released by the team. “Defense plays such an important part in winning games, and as an organization we had a goal coming into this season to improve ours. We are thankful for the efforts of our analytics department, and for our coaches who dedicated time to working with us every day to help us get better.”
Freeman was one of three first-time winners among the Wilson recipients, along with the Mariners' Mike Zunino (first base), the A's Matt Chapman (third base). Meanwhile, the Angels' Andrelton Simmons -- Freeman's former Braves teammate -- received his fifth nod at shortstop, the Rockies' D.J. LeMahieu (second base) and the Royals' Alex Gordon (left field) made the team for the third time, and the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier (center field), the Red Sox's Mookie Betts (right field) and the Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke (pitcher) all made the cut for the second time.
Freeman topped all NL first basemen -- and was second in the majors -- this season with 12 Defensive Runs Saved and came in fifth with 24 scoops.
The Braves have won six Defensive Player of the Year awards in all, including three straight by Simmons from 2013-15, while the others came from outfielders Jason Heyward (2014) and Michael Bourn (2012).
Defense was a point of emphasis for first-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves saw dramatic improvement.
They ranked fourth in DRS (59) and seventh in defensive WAR (23.9) a year after coming in 23rd (minus-23) and 21st (minus-10.6), respectively, in those categories and set a franchise record with three Gold Gloves as Freeman was joined by Ender Inciarte, who won his third straight in center field, and Nick Markakis earned the third of his career -- and first in a Braves uniform -- in right field.
The trophy case could continue to get crowded, as the Braves also have two finalists for two of the top major individual awards. Ronald Acuña Jr. is up for NL Rookie of the Year -- that will be handed out Monday -- and Brian Snitker is in the final three for Manager of the Year, which will be awarded Tuesday.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.' are now available.