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Heyward caps stellar season with first Gold Glove

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward spent this past season proving that he has the potential to be one of those rare players who has both tremendous power and great speed. At the same time, this legitimate five-tool athlete proved that he already stands as one of the game's premier defensive outfielders.

Heyward's defensive contributions were rewarded on Tuesday night, when he received the first Rawlings Gold Glove Award of his young career. Blessed with speed and great instincts, the 23-year-old spent this past summer handling his duties in right field with the grace of a center fielder.

"The young man has been terrific," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said in September. "We always talk offensive numbers, but I hope he gets consideration for a Gold Glove. I hope the league recognizes that, because he's been terrific out there, as well. He's saved our butt out there a couple times by himself."

When Braves third-base coach Brian Snitker cast his Gold Glove ballot, he said that he would never vote again if Heyward did not receive this honor this year. Based on the results, it appears many of the National League's other managers and coaches, who voted for the Gold Gloves, share Snitker's high regard for Heyward.

Heyward is the first Braves player to win a Gold Glove Award since Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur in 2007.

Per Fangraphs, Heyward compiled a 21.5 UZR and a 20.3 UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating per 150 games). The only NL outfielder with better marks was Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, who was denied in his bid to win his third Gold Glove Award in four years. Left fielder Martin Prado and first baseman Freddie Freeman were also finalists for the Braves.

Heyward notched 11 assists and committed five errors while compiling a .986 fielding percentage this year. He led all NL right fielders in zone rating (.915) and range factor per nine innings (2.30).

This marked the second straight year that the outfielders were voted on according to their specific position. Heyward, Cincinnati's Jay Bruce and Los Angeles' Andre Ethier were the finalists among NL right fielders.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen received more votes than Bourn, who won his previous Gold Gloves while playing for the Astros in 2009 and 2010. Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez finished ahead of Prado in the balloting among NL left fielders.

Former Brave and current Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche received his first Gold Glove. He finished ahead of Freeman and Cincinnati's Joey Votto.

Atlanta Braves, Jason Heyward