A's Gold Glove predictions: Matt Chapman, Matt Olson have best chances


A's Gold Glove predictions: Matt Chapman, Matt Olson have best chances

When the 2018 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners are announced Sunday, the A's will have four chances to win. Their entire infield made the cut as finalists.

Third baseman Matt Chapman, shortstop Marcus Semien, second baseman Jed Lowrie, and first baseman Matt Olson are each looking to become the first A's players to win a Gold Glove since Josh Reddick in 2012. Here's a look at their competition:

Third Base

Nominees: Matt Chapman (OAK), Alex Bregman (HOU), Jose Ramirez (CLE)

Chapman is the clear-cut favorite here. The A's third baseman led all of MLB with 29 defensive runs saved and a 19.5 SABR Defensive Index rating. He led all third basemen with a 10.9 ultimate zone rating (UZR) and .853 zone rating.

Bregman had an outstanding season in Houston, both offensively and defensively, and will receive plenty of MVP votes. Ramirez likely will too. But defensively, Chapman is in a league of his own.

Prediction: Matt Chapman


Nominees: Marcus Semien (OAK), Andrelton Simmons (LAA), Francisco Lindor (CLE)

Semien has made incredible strides defensively, but he is probably the long shot of this group. Simmons led AL shortstops with 21 defensive runs saved, Lindor had 14, and Semien finished with nine. Simmons also led the way with a 19.7 UZR.

Semien's best case is his 11.6 SABR Defensive Index, the best among AL shortstops. Simmons and Lindor tied for third at 8.0. Still, Simmons has to be considered the favorite.

Prediction: Andrelton Simmons

Second Base

Nominees: Jed Lowrie (OAK), Ian Kinsler (BOS), Rougned Odor (TEX)

Lowrie led AL second basemen with a .993 fielding percentage, committing just four errors all season. His .845 zone rating also ranked first in the group and his 6.1 ultimate zone rating was third.

However, Lowrie only tallied one defensive run saved, compared to 10 for both Kinsler and Odor. Kinsler led AL second basemen with a 7.0 SABR Defensive Index rating. Odor was second at 6.4 and Lowrie third at 4.9. Kinsler is probably a slight favorite over Odor.

Prediction: Ian Kinsler

First Base

Nominees: Matt Olson (OAK), Mitch Moreland (BOS), Justin Smoak (TOR)

Olson should have a strong chance to give the A's a Gold Glove at each corner of the infield. He led AL first basemen in the SABR Defensive Index at 5.8, compared to Moreland's 1.5 and Smoak's -0.2.

Olson led first basemen with 14 defensive runs saved, a .913 zone rating, and 11.6 ultimate zone rating. Moreland had 0 DRS and Smoak finished with -3. Olson was also the only first baseman in the majors to play in all 162 games.

Prediction: Matt Olson

Where A's MVP finalist Marcus Semien wants to improve next season

Where A's MVP finalist Marcus Semien wants to improve next season

OAKLAND -- Marcus Semien enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, in just about every area. The Oakland shortstop became the first A's player to register a top-three finish in the AL MVP race since Miguel Tejada in 2002.

"It means a lot," Semien told NBC Sports California. "It was a very competitive field this year. I think that the game is changing. There are so many players who can do everything on the field -- fielding, base running, scoring runs, producing runs. I'm trying to work on every part of my game to get better, and in the second half, I really made some improvements."  

Semien, 29, set career-highs in runs, hits, home runs, doubles, RBI, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and just about any other stat you can think of. The Bay Area native might have been even better defensively, where he was a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight year.

But despite all of his accomplishments, Semien believes he still has room to improve in 2020.

"I think baserunning is a big one, just getting in scoring position more for our big hitters," Semien said. "We've got great hitters in the middle of the lineup, so walking and getting hits, you want to just make sure you run the bases right. Defensively, turn more double plays, help our pitchers. We're going to have some young pitchers, so we want to make them feel as comfortable as possible."

Last offseason, Semien's most significant development involved plate discipline. He reduced his strikeout total from 131 to 102 and drew a career-high 87 walks, 26 more than the year before.

Semien also matched an A's single-season record by scoring 123 runs, fourth-most in the majors.

"Scoring runs was a big one for me," Semien said. "Solidifying myself in the leadoff spot. I've been moving around the lineup for a couple of years now and just to solidify the leadoff spot and score runs and get in a routine was great."

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While he appreciates the individual recognition, Semien's main focus is team success. After experiencing back-to-back Wild Card Game losses, he is optimistic that the A's can make a deeper run next season.

"I think we're going to be good," he said. "We want to start off better than we did last year. I think that our rotation will be more solidified. These last two years, we've added at the (trade) deadline to get our rotation where we want it to be, where this coming season, we'll hopefully start the rotation that we like. Position players are ready. I think that we'll have everybody healthy and it'll be fun."

Why A's shortstop Marcus Semien could be MVP candidate again in 2020


Why A's shortstop Marcus Semien could be MVP candidate again in 2020

Marcus Semien fell short of winning the AL MVP Award, but his third-place finish might be just the beginning.

At 29 years old, the A's shortstop still is very much in his prime and has significantly improved in each of his five seasons with Oakland.

When Semien first joined the A's at the age of 24, he was a decent hitter but looked completely lost in the field. In 2015, he committed a league-high 35 errors, prompting many to believe that he could never develop into a major-league shortstop.

But with the help of Ron Washington, Semien went to work. He spent hours upon hours working on his footwork, glovework, and consistency. Fast forward to 2019 and Semien has transformed into a back-to-back Gold Glove Award finalist.

Semien's offensive development has been just as impressive. This past season, the Bay Area native slashed .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs, 43 doubles, 92 RBI, and 123 runs scored. He notched career-highs in just about every offensive stat imaginable, ranking near the top of the majors in all of the important categories.

Most impressive, Semien's 8.1 WAR (wins above replacement) was fourth-best in baseball, behind only Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, and Cody Bellinger. Semien started all 162 games at shortstop, batting in the leadoff spot for 145 of those contests. And the scariest part for the rest of the league is that he continues to get better.

"He becomes a better hitter every year," A's manager Bob Melvin said earlier this year. "Nobody works harder than Marcus Semien. He knows what he needs to work on."

After the All-Star break, Semien arguably was the most productive hitter in baseball. In 70 games, he slashed .304/.396/.621 with 19 homers, 22 doubles, five triples, 44 RBI, and 62 runs.

If Semien continues at that rate next season, it would translate to 44 home runs, 51 doubles, 12 triples, 102 RBI, and 143 runs over the course of 162 games. That certainly is MVP-caliber.

Of course, the A's have a major decision to make -- Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and figures to see some big-money offers. Will Oakland sign its star shortstop to an expensive extension or instead turn the reigns over to young prospect Jorge Mateo?

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Semien is entering his final year of arbitration, where he is projected to get $13.5 million. After that, the A's could choose to make a qualifying offer to Semien for 2021, but there is no guarantee he would accept.

If 2020 does end up being Semien's last year in Oakland, it figures to be another special one. This year he was an MVP finalist. Perhaps next year he'll just be the MVP.