MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins center fielder Byron Buxton won what could be the first of many Rawlings Gold Glove Awards of his burgeoning career. He was joined by second baseman James Dozier, who in a mild surprise, won his first Gold Glove. The winners were announced on ESPN on Tuesday night.
Buxton, 23, beat out fellow American League finalists Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays) and Lorenzo Cain (Royals), snapping Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier's streak of two consecutive Gold Gloves in center field. And Dozier, 30, earned the honor over Ian Kinsler (Tigers) and Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox). Kinsler won it in 2016 and was considered the favorite to win it again this year.
"This is a special moment, not just for me, but for my teammates, my family and the support system behind me to go out there every day and play the game that I love," Buxton said on ESPN. "I'm very blessed to win this award. It means a lot to me and is very dear to my heart. Defense is really important to me. This is my first one, so I'm going to take the best of it and keep going."
It's the first major award for both Buxton and Dozier. Buxton is the first Twins center fielder to win a Gold Glove since Torii Hunter in 2007, and Dozier is the first Minnesota second baseman to win one since Chuck Knoblauch in 1997. The last Twins player to win one at any position was catcher Joe Mauer in 2010. The last time the club had two winners was in '07.
Each position received three finalists from each league. The awards are voted on by managers and coaches, with a sabermetric component accounting for roughly 25 percent of the vote.
Buxton, who was ranked as the fastest player in baseball this season by Statcast™'s sprint speed metric, had an incredible season defensively. He led all center fielders with 24 Defensive Runs Saved, finishing third in that statistic behind Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (32) and Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (31).
"He changes the game defensively more than anybody I've ever seen," Dozier said of Buxton. "It bugs me that he's even compared to other guys because until you play with him, you see the balls he gets to nobody else can get to."
Among Statcast™ data, Buxton led the Majors in four-star catches, converting an astounding 26 of 28 opportunities for a 92.9-percent success rate -- 11.4 percent higher than the next best outfielder in Betts. Buxton also dominated the new metric, Outs Above Average, with 25, leading Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte by six outs above average and Betts by nine.
"I think everyone understands that we're a different team when Byron's out there patrolling center field," Twins manager Paul Molitor said during the season. "It's not just his improved offense, it's his impact defensively."
Buxton credited his work in the offseason for his improved defense, as he worked on his first-step quickness to get better jumps and worked on getting better reads off the bat. His work with new outfield coach Jeff Pickler also paid dividends, as he used data for better positioning in center.
Dozier, named the Twins' Most Valuable Player for a second straight season by the Twin Cities chapter of the BBWAA, was named a Gold Glove finalist for the second time in his career, but this time came away with the award after Houston's Jose Altuve won it over him in 2015.
Dozier ranked fifth among AL second baseman in Defensive Runs Saved, while committing five errors in 674 chances, ranking first in the AL in fielding percentage by a second baseman. He was also fourth among AL second basemen in Range Factor, per baseball-reference.com.