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2012 Tony Awards: Defensive Player of the Year

2012 Tony Awards: Defensive Player of the Year
October 2, 2012
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Today we continue with the IPI’s year-end awards with the announcement of the Defensive Player of the Year.

In the coming days the Biggest Disappointment, Biggest Breakthrough, Reliever of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced.

Here are the 2012 Tony Awards so far:

Rookie of the Year: Dorssys Paulino (SS)

The Defensive Player of the Year award is given to the Indians minor leaguer who had the best season defensively. This is a new award I added in 2010 and one I think that is very deserving to acknowledge some of the great defensive play by some players who may or may not have had a good season at the plate.  You’ll have to cut some major slack here as the candidates for the award were determined by a combination of their basic defensive stats (fielding percentage, etc) and perception (how they actually looked).

As always, prospect standing is not considered with these awards as they are 100% awarded based on performance. Please keep that in mind as just because a guy is or is not listed does not mean anything from a “prospect” standing. These awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year. Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever had any input in these awards.

Onto the nominees...

Defensive Player of the Year Nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Jesus Aguilar (1B)
.996 PCT, 117 games, 942 PO, 89 A, 4 E, 1035 TC 104 DP

Aguilar may seem like a surprise here, but he had an outstanding season defensively for High-A Carolina and the month he was at Double-A Akron. He led all Carolina League first basemen in fielding percentage and during his short stint with Akron he did not commit an error. He may be big, but he moves well around the bag.

Matt Pagnozzi (C)
Fielding: .993 PCT, 76 Games, 512 PO, 56 A, 4 E, 572 TC, 7 DP, 3 PB
Throwing: 36 CS, 38 SB, 74 ATT, .486 PCT

Pagnozzi is hardly a prospect, but he did exactly what the Indians signed him for: play defense. He was one of the best defensive catchers in the International League and his .486 throw out percentage of basestealers led the league.

Roberto Perez (C)
Fielding: .990 PCT, 95 games, 699 PO, 92 A, 8 E, 799 TC, 6 DP, 25 PB
Throwing: 35 CS, 51 SB, 86 ATT, .407 PCT

Perez is no stranger to this award as his defensive prowess behind the plate is well known. Once again he had another great year defensively ranked near the top of the Eastern League in both fielding and throwing percentage. He also led the league with the most games caught behind the plate, most total chances, most putouts, most assists, most errors (tied), and most passed balls. The passed balls were deceivingly high because he caught the knuckleballer Steve Wright.

Cord Phelps (2B – Columbus)
.991 PCT, 132 Games, 254 PO, 322 A, 5 E, 581 TC, 88 DP

Phelps has never really been considered a plus defender at second base, but this season he performed about as well as he ever has. The biggest change this year was his consistency and it led to him leading International League second basemen in fielding percentage. He also led all second basemen in games, total chances, putouts, assists, and double plays.

Jerrud Sabourin (1B)
.993 PCT, 128 games, 1092 PO, 89 A, 8 E, 1189 TC, 108 DP

Sabourin was one of the most important players in the Low-A Lake County infield this season as his defense helped nurture a very young infield and he saved countless throwing errors with very good glove work around the bag. He led all Midwest League first basemen in fielding percentage, games, assists, and double plays.

Giovanny Urshela (3B)
.964 PCT, 113 games, 55 PO, 212 A, 10 E, 277 TC, 11 DP

Urshela had another impressive season manning the hot corner and arguably is the Indians’ best defender in their entire minor league system. He led all Carolina League third basemen in fielding percentage and was a vacuum over there consistently making the routine play and also made exceptional plays look easy.

And the 2012 Tony Award goes to….Giovanny Urshela

It was a nice surprise this season to see the development of Aguilar at first base and turn himself into an average defender, and there is still more in the tank to be a little bit better. Another surprise came from Phelps with the effort he put into improving his defense at second base, something that showed both objectively (stats) and subjectively (eyes).

It was also great to see the job that Sabourin did at first base in Lake County considering for most of the season he had 18 year olds Leonardo Castillo and Francisco Lindor making throws across the diamond and 19 years olds Robel Garcia and Jose Ramirez at second base. That was a tough job and responsibility, but he took on the role as the leader of the infield well and has established himself as an organizational favorite with his good defense and hitting this season.

Pagnozzi and Perez did what was expected of them behind the plate by calling good games, making few mental and physical errors, and controlling the running game. Pagnozzi is a guy I could see the Indians bringing back and teaming up with Perez next season at Triple-A Columbus.

But of all the defenders, Urshela stood out the most.

Year after year Urshela has been a gold glove caliber defender at third base showcasing impressive instincts, very good range to his left and right, soft hands, a very strong and accurate arm, and an exceptional ability to come in on balls. He makes highlight reel plays with ease and just has a calmness to him when he plays the position. Without a doubt, he is the Indians best defensive player in the entire organization – which says a lot with the likes of Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez in the system.

The other great thing about Urshela this season is how his bat took a significant jump and he became a much more powerful and productive player. He hit .278 with 14 HR, 59 RBI and .755 OPS in 114 games for Carolina, and showed marked improvement in his power and approach. With the offense catching up to his Major League ready defense, he is a third base prospect to watch going forward and one of the Indians best prospects.

Up next: Biggest Disappointment

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Jim
October 3, 2012 - 9:38 AM EDT
When Aguilar came to Carolina...I expected Frankenstein...

That's not even close to the reality. He can move around the base, and if he continues his work ethic...can cap out as slightly above average. I probably have a higher projection on him than Tony after watching him for the past year, but that's more than likely because I was surprised by how mobile he was this year...setting my visual a bit skewed to the high side.

An underrated part of his game are his hands...as he scooped out a bunch of balls from much more heralded defenders...

I LOVE Roberto Perez...and really believe he'll be a factor with the Indians going forward. While his bat is similar to Marson's in many ways...he does have a knack for big moments in big games. He's the type of guy that will run a streak of offense...and it's because of his make-up...knowledge of pitchers...and overall high IQ. Just a great, great player...in the Molina mold on the defensive side of things...he's that good. He just can't sustain anything offensively...

Urshela was an easy choice...IMO...not flashy at all...which is his brilliance...
Tony
October 2, 2012 - 10:45 PM EDT
Aguilar is actually surprisingly athletic with solid range for his size.

As for Lindor, I figured it would come up why he was excluded, and in a nutshell I kept him off simply because if I included him then it opened the door for another half a dozen guys or so to be included. I listed the guys that led the league defensively at their positions or that excelled in other areas. Everyone knows Lindor is a very good defender but he also did not stand out like the other players listed. If I include Lindor, I also would have had to include Tony Wolters, Juan Diaz, Jordan Smith, and lots of others who all played well defensively this season. I opted for the guys who played well defensively this season AND performed statistically.
troy
October 2, 2012 - 9:34 PM EDT
I was wondering the same thing about Lindor?

Aguilar could be one of those lumbering big men like a George Scott or Boog Powell who were athletically challenged yet had soft hands and fundamentally sound
Chengy
October 2, 2012 - 7:18 PM EDT
What is Aguilar's range like? I hear all about how good some first baseman are defensively but can't move more than two steps.
Discollama
October 2, 2012 - 4:48 PM EDT
I would have thought that Lindor would have been nominated given his highly touted defense at SS. Is there a reason why he was left off?
Tony
October 2, 2012 - 12:50 PM EDT
No, I don't see him being much offensively. He does have a very patient approach so he has that going for him....but even still with his plus defensive ability he could be a Marson-type of player that is a liability offensively but a good backup defensive catcher in the big leagues.
Frank
October 2, 2012 - 12:39 PM EDT
Have watched Roberto Perez the past two falls in the AFL & could see what it is you are talking about with his defensive skills. Problem has been his bat. Do you think he will ever come around enough offensively to be a true major league option?
tribefan
October 2, 2012 - 11:08 AM EDT
I am really interested to see what becomes of Urshela. What he did with the bat this season was great to see!

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