Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier might not be the most consistent hitter, but when you talk about his glove -- oh my goodness -- it’s second to none. He already has won three American League Gold Glove Awards during his six full seasons in the big leagues. The most recent came last year, when Kiermaier led all AL center fielders in defensive runs saved with 13, according to FanGraphs.
The Rays’ emphasis on defense is one reason the upstart franchise is consistently in the pennant race.
As we pondered Kiermaier’s exploits with the glove, we asked our AL East beat writers to pick the best glove for each of the five teams in the division:
Blue Jays: Danny Jansen
In his first full season as the club's starting catcher, Danny Jansen exceeded all expectations defensively. The Blue Jays wanted Jansen to focus heavily on his defense, given their confidence that he'll hit at the Major League level, and that decision paid off. Jansen ranked 10th in the Majors with seven runs extra strikes, which calculates the runs a catcher saves their team by framing pitches (on a 0.125 run/strike basis). Beyond the numbers, Jansen also earned widespread praise from his pitching staff, which wasn't an easy task as he managed a revolving door of openers and young starters. -- Keegan Matheson
Orioles: José Iglesias
The Orioles’ easy selection in this category is shortstop José Iglesias, who might have the distinction of being the best active fielder yet to win a Gold Glove.
Lack of hardware aside, Iglesias has long been famous for his glove. It has been his calling card since he broke into the big leagues early last decade with the Red Sox and then grew into an All-Star for successful Tigers teams of the mid-2010s. And it’s exactly why the Orioles targeted Iglesias in free agency this winter, to stabilize their infield after a year in which they ranked poorly in overall shortstop defense and had baseball’s lowest rate of strikeouts by their pitchers.
Iglesias ranks among Major League leaders at short since 2015 in ultimate zone rating (third), defensive runs above average (fourth), defensive runs saved (seventh) and defensive wins above replacement (seventh). But the scope of Iglesias’ skills isn’t illustrated properly on paper. To appreciate his wizardry is to witness it -- the acrobatic turns around second base, the glove-flips, the exceptional tags. Iglesias is a stylist, and he excels despite average speed and a pedestrian-but-accurate arm, thanks to lightning quick feet, strong instincts, athleticism and magic in his glove. Even as he enters his 30s, that last bit is still a marvel. -- Joe Trezza
Rays: Kevin Kiermaier
Kevin Kiermaier is one of the best defenders in the league and, arguably, the best in center field. In 2019, Kiermaier led all American League outfielders with 17 outs above average, largely because of his ability to get a quick jump on the ball and his elite speed in the outfield. Kiermaier covered 38.7 feet per attempt, leading the Majors. If you’re not convinced by the advanced stats, then we can point you in the direction of Kiermaier’s Platinum Glove and three Gold Gloves. -- Juan Toribio
Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr.
If Mookie Betts hadn’t been traded, there would be a legitimate debate for who has the best glove on the Red Sox. But with Betts now with the Dodgers, the obvious answer is Jackie Bradley Jr., who plays center field with a combination of grace and skill matched by only a select few. Bradley has been making dazzling grabs for the Red Sox since 2013. The one he made last year at Camden Yards to take back what would have been a walk-off homer by Trey Mancini was a catch for the ages. Remarkably, it was the second time Bradley pulled back a potential walk-off homer in his career. If you need a challenge, try to create a list for Bradley’s 10 best plays. It is agonizing to narrow it down to 10 given how many terrific snags Bradley has made through the years. -- Ian Browne
Yankees: DJ LeMahieu
There are solid cases to be made for outfielder Brett Gardner, who already owns one Gold Glove Award, and for right fielder Aaron Judge, who could bring home a few before his career is in the books. But DJ LeMahieu's infield presence was a terrific stabilizing force for the Yankees last season, no matter where manager Aaron Boone needed to place him, and that sure-handed versatility is a key reason LeMahieu was viewed as the club's most valuable player.
A three-time National League Gold Glove Award winner (2014, ’17’, ’18) at second base with the Rockies, LeMahieu accepted the challenge of playing in New York despite not being assured a set position. He excelled at second base, third base and first base, committing just eight errors in 1,241 2/3 innings in the field. With Gleyber Torres shifting to shortstop, LeMahieu had been set to begin 2020 as the Yanks' everyday second baseman. -- Bryan Hoch