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2014 Tony Awards: Defensive Player of the Year

2014 Tony Awards: Defensive Player of the Year
Tony Wolters talking with pitcher Cody Anderson. (Photo: Brittany Chay)
October 16, 2014
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Today we continue with the IBI’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. To see the history of the Tony Awards from previous seasons, go here.

Here are the 2014 Tony Awards so far:

Rookie of the Year: Bobby Bradley

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

Greg Allen (OF – Mahoning Valley)
.991 PCT, 54 G, 108 PO, 7 A, 1 E, 116 TC, 3 DP

Allen is yet another 2014 Draft pick who had a nice pro debut. His bat fizzled some as the season wore on, but his ability to impact the game defensively and on the basepaths held true all season. He plays center field with ease, can range well to balls, showed a strong arm and has some versatility to move around to all three outfield positions. He finished 3rd in the NY-Penn League in outfield assists (7).

Alex Lavisky (C – Akron)
Fielding: .995 PCT, 51 G, 376 PO, 35 A, 2 E, 413 TC, 6 DP, 5 PB
Throwing: 23-for-60 (.383 PCT)

Lavisky was part of a good catching crew at Double-A Akron where as a team they were 3rd in the Eastern League in throwing out runners (37.5%). He shared playing time with Tony Wolters and Jake Lowery, but even with the limited time behind the plate he made the most of it showing his plus receiving skills, ability to control a running game and good leadership qualities.

Francisco Lindor (SS – Akron/Columbus)
.971 PCT, 126 G, 187 PO, 355 A, 16 E, 558 TC, 87 DP

Lindor once again had another strong year defensively and continues to improve his already impressive shortstop play. He really cut down on the errors this season dropping from 22 in 103 games last year to 16 in 126 games this year. He’s always had the ability to play shortstop at an exceptional level, but the consistency was not always there. It is there now and he is ready to help make an impact defensively in the Major Leagues.

Carlos Moncrief (RF – Columbus)
.972 PCT, 129 G, 256 PO, 22 A, 8 E, 286 TC, 6 DP

Moncrief is an underrated outfielder who moves well and covers a good amount of ground for a power hitting right fielder. His best asset is a howitzer for an arm which has developed quite the reputation throughout the industry. He now has an amazing 76 outfield assists in his five seasons playing in the outfield. This season he broke the Triple-A Columbus franchise record with 22 outfield assists and ranked 1st in the International League in assists and double plays for an outfielder (6).

Tyler Naquin (OF – Akron)
.995 PCT, 74 G, 179 PO, 9 A, 1 E, 189 TC, 1 DP

Naquin’s season was abruptly cut short and abbreviated when he broke his right hand at the end of June, had surgery and was out for the rest of the season. But up until that point he was not only showing some strides offensively, but he was solidifying himself as a legit Major League quality center fielder. He was one of the best defensive outfielders in the Eastern League and has a rocket for an arm that few can match.

Roberto Perez (C – Columbus)
Fielding: .993 PCT, 53 G, 423 PO, 31 A, 3 E, 457 TC, 4 DP, 2 PB
Throwing: 14-for-36 (.389 PCT)

Perez only spent a little over half the season at Triple-A Columbus as he was called up to Cleveland right around the All Star break in early July. While his offensive production soared at Columbus, his calling card continues to be his defensive ability as he is one of the best defensive catchers just breaking into the big leagues. He had the best fielding percentage among catchers in the International League who played as much as he did and had the 3rd best throw out percentage (38.9%).

Giovanny Urshela (3B – Akron/Columbus)
.967 PCT, 121 G, 71 PO, 204 A, 9 E, 275 TC, 22 DP

Urshela once again had another banner season defensively for the Indians as he was a human vacuum over at third base. He led all International League third basemen in fielding percentage. The good fielding percentage shows consistency on the routine plays, but more importantly is that he makes the non-routine plays look easy which is what separates him from the pack defensively when compared to other third basemen.

Tony Wolters (C – Akron)
Fielding: 1.000 PCT, 66 G, 439 PO, 52 A, 0 E, 491 TC, 4 DP, 4 PB
Throwing: 25-for-53 (.472)

Wolters led the entire Eastern League in fielding percentage (1.000) and was 2nd in throw out percentage (47.2%) by a mere three tenths of a percentage. He also spent some time at second base (10 games) and shortstop (8 games) which allowed manager Dave Wallace to have a lot of versatility with the lineup and get other players into games and rest others.

And the Tony Award goes to…..Tony Wolters

This was a tough one as all of Lindor, Perez, Urshela and Wolters had great seasons defensively, but in the end I selected Wolters simply on stats alone as his were exceptional for the position he played.

Consider that Wolters is still not even two years into his transition to the catching position. He made the switch last March, roughly 19 months ago, and has made amazing strides over that time period. He got a crash course to the position last season, went out to the Arizona Fall League last year and learned a ton, had an exceptional offseason where he got stronger and better with his knowledge and skills with catching, and then pulled all of that together to have a very good season defensively at the Double-A level.

Wolters only played in 66 games at catcher, though a late season injury which forced him to miss the last five weeks of the season probably cut off about 20-30 games from that total. But what he showed in the four months of play before injury solidified himself as a legitimate Major League caliber catcher. He shows a strong rapport with his pitchers, good receiving and blocking skills, a strong arm and most of all the willingness to work and not stop working so that he can perfect his craft.

The bat was suspect this past season as Wolters only hit .249 with 1 HR, 34 RBI and .633 OPS, but some of the struggles offensively can be attributed to so much focus on the transition to catcher. Now that he has truly settled into the position, the next step will be to find more consistency with his approach and get himself on track offensively. Even if he doesn’t hit much, there is still a lot of value in a plus defender at catcher who can also go to the middle of the infield and play average to above average defense at shortstop and second base. That is a rare skill in the game.

In the end, what is nice to see is for a team as defensively challenged as the Indians were this past season at the big league level, they have some possible solutions in the minors ready to help with the likes of Lindor, Urshela, Perez and even Wolters. Having two capable backup catchers who are good defenders is a good thing to have, and having two defensive stalwarts on the left side of the infield ready to contribute should make for some interesting decisions this offseason and into next season.

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

October 17, 2014 - 12:55 PM EDT
I like Lavisky. A good solid catching prospect. Probably no shot to be a ML regular, but might be a guy who at some point gets a cup of coffee there and has a long career as a AAA-AA catcher. That's not a bad thing at all.
Chicken Fried Pox
October 17, 2014 - 12:32 PM EDT
Lavisky is a lurker.. I don't think he is considered a prospect so much anymore, but his bat was always considered to be a potential weapon... If he comes out the gate strong next season he will no longer be that guy on the outside looking in but the guy everyone is looking at.
Jake D.
October 17, 2014 - 8:55 AM EDT
Tony Wolters was fun to watch at Akron this year. You would've never known that he just recently transitioned over to the catcher position. He could be a very valuable asset to the Indians in the future if he gets his offense back on track. Also, while I don't expect this to last with how physically demanding catching is, he can still play a decent second base and shortstop.

I agree the entire catching corps for the RubberDucks this season was impressive. I'm not sure where his standing is as a prospect, but Alex Lavisky also impressed me both offensively and defensively. Was fairly consistent in both areas of play all year.
October 16, 2014 - 6:28 PM EDT
Gregg, I like Urshela too, but he won't have the impact that Donaldson would. But if they believe Urshela is the long term solution at 3b than I could see a short term solution at 3b.
October 16, 2014 - 6:20 PM EDT
Wow! I didn't realize Wolters was that good at C. That's tremendous for a guy who recently transitioned there. That's encouraging, and it makes me think he could become a plus defender at the big league level.

If his bat comes around a bit he could be a fringe starting C, or a very good backup. Even if he holds his current numbers offensively as he progresses.
October 16, 2014 - 4:26 PM EDT
Gregg, even if the Indians were to trade Chisenhall there is no shot for Urshela to make the opening day roster. Even if there are injuries in spring training. He simply is not an option until May at the earliest. I don't agree with that but that's the way the Indians handle zero service time players entering a season. And that's not going to change any time soon. So if Chisenhall is not the third baseman then they will trade for one or sign one. They could also always use Aviles or Walters as a stop gap until Urshela is needed.
October 16, 2014 - 2:29 PM EDT
I agree Urshela has zero chance of making the opening day line up unless they trade Chisenhall for a right handed outfielder.

I think the Indians would be making a serious mistake if they traded their top prospects in a deal to get Donaldson. I believe Urshela is going to be a very good third baseman, at worst a poor man's Arenado or Machado.
October 16, 2014 - 2:05 PM EDT
Wow, that's as good as it gets as a catcher defensively. Incredible development and he might get even better. And there's still hope that his bat comes around. He will never hit for power or be a SB threat, so his calling card will be BA and OBP. He has played as a 21.5yo at AA last season, that's very young for the level.

Wolters is a breakout candidate and a top 20 prospect. Urshela had a similar OPS last season at Akron at 21yo. This system is really loaded. Good times.
Canadian Joe
October 16, 2014 - 1:15 PM EDT
We will need Harry Doyle commentary for Loopstock's first major league game. Would be frightening.
October 16, 2014 - 11:57 AM EDT
Urshela has zero chance to make the opening day roster. That said, he absolutely has a chance to get to Cleveland later in the early as May.
C L Who
October 16, 2014 - 11:54 AM EDT
It seems a given that Urshela, Lindor and Moncrief aren't getting anywhere near Progressive Field until mid-season, at least, and quite possibly never. Here's one vote for a program to field the "almost all rookie" lineup in 2015.....except for Gomes, Brantley and Santana.....

Tony, I note that Urshela is offensively above average at AAA and younger than his peers. I frequently read that those are signs of a major leaguer. Any chance Urshela gets a shot at the major leagues coming out of ST, or any time at all this year?

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