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Padres have potential Gold Glovers for 2018

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- There were no Padres among the Gold Glove Award finalists announced by Rawlings on Thursday morning. It's now been five seasons since Chase Headley took home the club's most recent defensive hardware in 2012.

As a unit, San Diego struggled defensively in 2017, but there were certainly a few standout individual performances which could portend Gold Glove candidacies next season.

SAN DIEGO -- There were no Padres among the Gold Glove Award finalists announced by Rawlings on Thursday morning. It's now been five seasons since Chase Headley took home the club's most recent defensive hardware in 2012.

As a unit, San Diego struggled defensively in 2017, but there were certainly a few standout individual performances which could portend Gold Glove candidacies next season.

Here's a look at the Padres' top three Gold Glove candidates on the current roster:

Clayton Richard, P

No one has ever questioned Richard's athleticism. In the past, however, the veteran left-hander has proven a bit error-prone -- specifically on some relatively routine throws. That wasn't the case in 2017. Richard did not commit an error, despite ranking fourth among National League pitchers in assists.

The 34-year-old southpaw is a very good defensive pitcher, and his tendency toward ground balls means he'll get more opportunities than most. He owns one of the game's best pickoff moves and has proven himself adept at starting double plays.

If Richard can put forth another error-free 200-inning campaign, he should be in the running for his first Gold Glove Award.

Video: COL@SD: Richard fields comebacker, starts double play

Manuel Margot, CF

"I want to become one of the best center fielders out there," Margot said this August. "My goal is winning a Gold Glove."

He's probably not too far off. Margot has arguably the highest defensive ceiling on the Padres' roster. Still, it's hard to consider his omission from the 2017 finalists a snub. Margot got off to a slow start defensively as he battled a calf injury. And he struggled a bit with plays at the wall.

There's a case to be made for Margot as a finalist over Ender Inciarte, who ranked well below Margot in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. But even then, Margot would've been a longshot to win the award outright.

Still, the necessary improvements for Margot are very minor. He needs to shore up his hands when he's going back on the baseball. Too often, he tried to make two-handed running grabs, when one hand was required. Margot needs a bit more experience working at the wall. If he makes progress in those two aspects, he'll be a Gold Glove finalist in no time.

Video: SF@SD: Margot runs down Sandoval's bases-loaded liner

Austin Hedges, C

In his first full big league season, Hedges is already one of the best all-around catchers in the sport. On Thursday, perennial candidates Buster Posey and Yadier Molina were announced among the three finalists. But it might not be long before Hedges supplants them.

Behind the plate, he's certainly flashy enough. (Think: his diving catch at Citi Field or his head-over-heels tumble into the home dugout at Petco Park.) Plus, he's got the type of arm that can stifle a running game by its mere existence. Only Posey and Tucker Barnhart had a higher caught-stealing percentage than Hedges' 37-percent rate.

Video: AJ Cassavell on Hedges' catch

But Hedges' true value comes from the largely unheralded things he does. According to Baseball Prospectus, Hedges ranked first in the Majors in pitch-framing runs above average. And his pitching staff has raved about the work he puts in game-planning and blocking balls in the dirt.

Perhaps unjustly, the biggest knocks on Hedges' 2017 Gold Glove candidacy were probably his name-recognition and his offense. But it's a safe bet that Hedges, 25, will be in the discussion for quite a few years to come.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot, Clayton Richard