With the Rawlings Gold Gloves announced, as difficult as it may be, it is time to take a look at some of the top defensive players in the Orioles system from the 2009 season.
Much criticism has been made of the 2009 Gold Glove winners and hopefully this will foster some interesting debate. One fielder from each position was chosen. In this edition, we take a look at the battery and the right side of the infield:
Pitcher: Zach Britton, High-A Frederick
A pitcher who pitches to contact, and ground-ball contact, no less, should field his position well. Britton did that in 2009. The 21-year-old committed just one error in 43 chances for a .977 fielding percentage, a big improvement over 2008 when he committed five errors. For a lefty, he also did a good job in the putout department, collecting nine, three short of his career high last year in Delmarva, but it shows his ability to get to first. Covering the bag is something all pitchers must do, but it is magnified when the pitcher averages 3.38 Go/Ao.
Catcher: Adam Donachie, Double-A Bowie
Donachie may not be a house-hold name, but he did a great job behind the plate for the Baysox this year. Aside from handling a pitching staff as well as any big leaguer, he was solid behind the plate as a defender. He actually caught a career high 39% (22 of 57) of would-be base-stealers (tied for tops in the system with Guillermo Rodriguez). Donachie only surrendered five passed balls, but he also saved a lot of wild pitches. While Donachie has been in pro ball since 2002 and has not cracked the bigs, the 25-year-old, is someone who played a big role in the progression of a number of top Orioles pitching prospects. Perhaps he may even be able to help out another young catcher rising through the system in Caleb Joseph. And maybe Joseph may find himself here next year.
First Base: Joe Mahoney, Single-A Delmarva
Mahoney, 22, dropped about thirty pounds in the off-season and certainly regained the athleticism he displayed in his collegiate career. It showed in a number of facets in his game, including his defense. First and foremost, he admitted shedding the extra weight allowed him to stay healthy the entire season, avoiding nagging injuries. He played in 74 games at first base this year, while splitting designated hitting and fielding duties with Elvin Polanco. In 2008, Mahoney only played in 49 games in the field.
Once in the field, he again showed the ability to field his position well. He has improved at the bag since a rough go in his professional debut in 2007 when committed 7 errors in 39 games at first with the IronBirds. In 2009 he committed just five errors in 688 chances and had a career high 49 assists. His .993 fielding percentage was just a three point drop from last year. Mahoney displayed good feel at the bag at first this year and from this writer's view, he looked a lot better, and more natural, at fielding bad throws at first. Standing at 6-7 he presents a large target, but he also showed he can get low and make the scoops. This is what separated him from Brandon Snyder, who is still learning at first base (that is not to say Snyder did not take some big strides in improving in the field as well).
Second Base: Bobby Stevens, High-A Frederick
Simply put, Stevens wins games with his defense. While Ryan Adams and L.J. Hoes rank ahead of him in prospect status in the organization, it is clear who the best defensive second baseman was this year. In fact, Stevens was not even in the original plans at the full-season level. His pro debut left a lot to be desired in 2008 when everything went wrong for him, at the plate and in the field. He committed 16 errors in 207 chances for a .923 fielding percentage. He did not make a full-season team in 2009, but injuries to Ryan Adams and Matthew Tucker opened up a big-time opportunity for Stevens and he took advantage of it.
In the field, Stevens committed just four errors in 256 chances at second base over 57 games (.984 fielding percentage). At times it seemed like the 22-year-old was everywhere, making diving stops to his left and right, making off-balance throws. When Ryan Adams was coming back from leg injuries, Keys manager Richie Hebner still wanted Stevens around. Stevens played some short and third base and did well there. In 2009 he proved he has become an intriguing prospect as a utility infielder.