The Orioles’ 2023 season is over, but the awards to recognize their unprecedented campaign are just beginning.
Three Orioles — catcher Adley Rutschman, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and left fielder Austin Hays — were named American League Gold Glove Award finalists, Rawlings announced Wednesday afternoon.
Three finalists at each position were chosen in each league by the 30 MLB managers and six coaches from each team — votes that make up 75% of the process — and the Society for American Baseball Research Defensive Index, which accounts for the remaining 25%.
Gold Glove Award winners will be revealed Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”
Rutschman was one of six catchers in the AL to start more than 100 games behind the plate this season and ended his second big league campaign rated as an above-average backstop in each of the four major metrics measured from Statcast tracking data.
His 22% caught stealing rate is narrowly above average, but his 1.91-second pop time — the time it takes him from catching a pitch to the ball reaching the middle infielder’s glove at second base — ranked fourth in the AL among backstops with more than 30 stolen base attempts against them. His pitch framing, according to Baseball Savant, ranks in the top 20% in the major leagues, and his five catcher-framing runs rank eighth in the AL. He’s also a plus blocker, ranking in the 85th percentile in Statcast’s pitch-blocking metric and eighth in the AL in blocks above average per game.
Only two starting catchers in the AL rank better than Rutschman as both a framer and a thrower: Seattle’s Cal Raleigh and Texas’ Jonah Heim. Raleigh isn’t a finalist — Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk is instead — while Heim and Rutschman will go head to head again for an award after Heim, an Orioles draftee in 2013, won the fan vote over Baltimore’s backstop to start the All-Star Game.
But Rutschman’s value as a catcher is perhaps derived just as much from his handling of a young Orioles pitching staff that took leaps in 2023. The 25-year-old has been often credited by his pitchers and manager Brandon Hyde for his ability to help craft a game plan, call pitches and provide support throughout the game. After innings end, he meets his pitcher at the foul line for positive reinforcement — an unusual yet distinctive act he does no matter the circumstances.
Hays was perhaps the most likely Oriole to be a Gold Glove finalist after standing out in Camden Yards’ abnormally large left field. Mountcastle, meanwhile, is a surprise after playing just 90 games and 769 1/3 innings at first base this season.
Hyde frequently talked about the importance of having Hays in Oriole Park’s left field — the sport’s largest after the organization moved back the wall before the 2022 season — to the success of Baltimore’s young pitching staff. Hays’ seven defensive runs saved ranked third among AL left fielders. The only two ahead of him — Cleveland’s Steven Kwan (15) and Toronto’s Daulton Varsho (11) — are also finalists. Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average ranked Hays’ range as slightly below league average, but his arm is rated by Statcast as one of the sport’s best with an arm value in the top 10% and arm strength in the top 20%. Hays, an All-Star after a torrid first half, totaled only four outfield assists, but that’s largely because opposing base runners rarely tried to take an extra base against him.
For Mountcastle, being a Gold Glove finalist at first base would’ve been a shock just a few years ago. Drafted as a shortstop out of high school in 2015, Mountcastle moved to third base as a minor leaguer in 2018. He then spent the following three seasons playing first base and corner outfield before permanently moving to first last season. Of the 12 AL first basemen with more than 600 innings played, only five had a positive DRS, with Mountcastle’s two ranked third on that list. The only two ahead of him are New York’s Anthony Rizzo (three) and Texas’ Nathaniel Lowe (two), both of whom are also finalists. According to OAA, Mountcastle’s minus-1 ranked sixth among AL first basemen, including behind teammate Ryan O’Hearn at three.
Infielder Gunnar Henderson and center fielder Cedric Mullins were not named finalists. Mullins, a finalist in 2022, started just 101 games in center field this season after landing on the injured list twice with groin strains. Henderson split his season between shortstop and third base, hurting his chances of being a finalist at either, but he also didn’t make the final cut for the utility spot despite ranking fifth among AL infielders in DRS, which was awarded for the first time last year.
However, Henderson’s offseason won’t be without hardware. The 22-year-old is the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award next month after leading the 101-win Orioles in Baseball-Reference’s version of wins above replacement at 6.3.
Starting pitcher Kyle Bradish is expected to get votes for AL Cy Young, Rutschman could be the AL’s Silver Slugger at catcher, first baseman Ryan O’Hearn is a consideration for AL Comeback Player of the Year and closer Félix Bautista is worthy of Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year consideration. Hyde is expected to win AL Manager of the Year, and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is a strong candidate for MLB Executive of the Year.
On Tuesday, Henderson, Bradish and O’Hearn were finalists for the player-voted Major League Baseball Players Association’s Players Choice Awards. Henderson was nominated for AL Outstanding Rookie, Bradish for AL Outstanding Pitcher and O’Hearn for AL Comeback Player.