After the 2020 MLB season ended, many Orioles fans hoped to see center fielder Cedric Mullins receive recognition for his excellent fielding prowess in the form of a Gold Glove award. Mullins was snubbed, but the O's outfield still managed to make a surprise appearance.
Right fielder Anthony Santander enjoyed a breakout season at the plate, but he also took a major step forward in the outfield. He was rewarded Thursday after being named a finalist for the Gold Glove award at the position in the American League.
Santander's competition includes Clint Frazier of the Yankees and Joey Gallo of the Rangers. Many of Santander's advanced defensive metrics look better than Frazier's, but Gallo's outshine both of them.
The Rangers outfielder is known for his prodigious power at the plate and a cannon for an arm in the outfield, but he proved himself an excellent all-around defender in 2020. Gallo finished the shortened season in the 89th percentile of MLB outfielders in Outs Above Average, and 95th percentile in Outfielder Jumps, per MLB's Baseball Savant.
Santander, meanwhile, finished in the 69th and 66th percentiles, respectively, in the same categories. And not that fielding percentage is considered a great measurement of defensive ability in 2020, but for what it's worth, Gallo finished the year with zero errors, while Santander had three. And that was with Santander playing in just 37 games.
Sports Info Solutions also gives the edge to Gallo, who led all MLB outfielders with 13 Defensive Runs Saved in 2020. Santander finished with 8.
Oftentimes through the course of MLB history, incumbent Gold Glove winners are given the benefit of the doubt, but none of this year's RF candidates have won before, so that won't come into play. Breakout hitters have historically done well, too. The added attention from a strong year at the plate can help players in the field in the eyes of the voters.
That could benefit Santander, who enjoyed a true breakthrough at the plate in 2020, though Gallo was also excellent with the bat in 2020.
Whether or not Santander actually brings home the hardware, it's important to remember just how far he's come in all aspects of his game. His 2020 season solidified his spot as a key future piece for the Baltimore Orioles, and now he's getting recognized for his impressive improvements.