Royals defense stocked with Gold Glove talent
It won't happen this year, but at some point in the next year or two, the Royals almost surely will break their franchise record for most Gold Glove winners on the same team.
The Royals three times have had two Gold Glovers on the same team, the last coming in 1989 when Bret Saberhagen and Bob Boone each won the award.
And here's another strong possibility: The Royals soon could become the first team in the history of the Gold Glove award, which started in 1958, to have five winners on the same team.
The record of four has been held by several teams, the latest being the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002.
"Wow, getting five on the same team would be incredible," Royals first base coach and outfield instructor Rusty Kuntz said. "I can definitely see it happening with the defensive talent we have."
The Royals have five legitimate candidates now and in the near future: left fielder Alex Gordon, who won the award last year; shortstop Alcides Escobar; third baseman Mike Moustakas; first baseman Eric Hosmer; and catcher Sal Perez.
You might also consider right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who won the award in 2007 with the Braves, if Francoeur remains a Royal in 2013 and beyond.
Moustakas might get consideration this season, and a strong case recently was presented by Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star that suggested Moustakas' defensive metrics were the best in the league, even better than reigning winner Adrian Beltre of the Rangers.
Kuntz agreed that Moustakas, in his first full season, has become that shut-down defensive player at third.
"What separates him from other third basemen is his arm strength," Kuntz said. "His range has gotten way better, too, but his arm strength separates him from the pack. He made two plays in Boston recently that you just don't see other guys make. He charged balls and made the pickup and then made that throw that is somewhat below sidearm – almost submarine – while on the run.
"And he made those throws strong and accurate, without a tail or sinking action to it. Not many guys in the game have been able to make that throw and he already is making it.
"Plus, he has above-average range now. He can go head first for balls, pick them, and then have a strong enough arm to make the throw from his knees. That's Gold Glove stuff. Miguel Cabrera was able to do that when he was younger. Now it's Moose who can do it.
"Moose used to be thought of as an OK third baseman. Now, he's elevated his game to elite status defensively."
Kuntz sees Gordon winning multiple Gold Gloves, especially now that he has one under his belt.
"His reads and routes are perfect," Kuntz said. "He plays outfield like an infielder. Fast feet and soft hands. He's got an infielder's release – very quick and strong release. That's why he's up there in assists.
"He positions his feet well and he's accurate, like an infielder, and he's strong-armed. That's the deadly combination – accuracy and strength. He should be the Gold Glover for years to come. He's the total package."
Hosmer might have gained consideration this season if not for his sub-par offensive year – remember that offense does seem to play a role with voters, though it shouldn't.
"No love for the glove," Kuntz said. "You have to have some offense to get people's attention. Then when you do, you win the award. But Hoz, he's the total package, too.
"For his size, he gets to so many balls. To have that kind of range, and to be that soft with his hands, yes, he's a Gold Glover. You have to really dig around baseball to find a guy that has all those dimensions to his game at first base. And, you add his anticipation on plays....wow. I'm not sure everyone appreciates that.
"I saw him twice last year at Omaha early in the season where he turned a 3-6-4 double play on bunting situations after great bunts. And consider that as a first baseman, he has a responsibility to cover first base. It's not like the third baseman on bunting situations where the third baseman can just creep in all the way. First basemen have to hold the runner, stay back, then charge. And he was able to make the charge on perfect bunts down the line and throw strikes to second base so far in advance that they turned the double play. Amazing.
"I'm not sure I had seen that play pulled off once, let alone twice, by the same guy. His foot speed is so quick, and you add that plus-plus arm – I couldn't believe it."
As for Escobar, Kuntz said, "He's a human highlight reel every day. The thing about him in the past was that the routine ball would sometimes get away from him. But now he's cleaned that up. And he's hitting. Let's face it: It's a defensive award, but you have to have some offense to get recognized.
"The super plays he makes to his left and to his right are unmatched. His arm strength is the best, and it's accurate. He's got a lot of competition at the position but I think once he wins one and the team is competitive each year, he'll win multiple Gold Gloves. No doubt. He could be one of the best ever."
Perez seems bound to quickly dominate talk about the Gold Glove award at his position, too.
"Hey, let's be honest: Sal is the best. Hands down," Kuntz said. "Right now you have Yadier Molina in the National League and Sal in the American League. No one is better than those two.
"I've had so many first-base umpires who say they are just in awe of him. He keeps them on their toes because you never know when a bullet is going to come to first to pick a guy off. His arm strength is uncanny.
"And he's a 1.8 (seconds) guy, in terms of pop in the mitt to second base. That time is ridiculous. No one is 1.8. Plus he has really soft hands and can manage the plate on both sides back there, even though he's a big guy at 6 feet 5. Just cant' say enough about him. He's the best in my mind already. And once he wins a Gold Glove, he'll win about 10 straight."