SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have their first Gold Glove right fielder since Tony Gwynn. They also have their first utility Gold Glove Award winner ever.
Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ha-Seong Kim are Gold Glovers for the first time following Sunday night’s announcement. Tatis took home the National League award in right field ahead of finalists Mookie Betts of the Dodgers and Lane Thomas of the Nationals, while Kim bested Betts and the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman for the utility spot. (Kim was also up for the NL Gold Glove Award at second base, which went to the Cubs' Nico Hoerner.)
For Tatis, it's a fitting end to his remarkable transition to right field this year. After Tatis -- the Padres’ incumbent shortstop -- missed the 2022 season due to a left wrist fracture and a PED suspension, San Diego signed Xander Bogaerts last December to take over at short for ‘23.
The Padres always figured Tatis could flourish as a full-time right fielder, due to his range, strong arm and athleticism. Tatis simply needed to buy into the plan -- and he did precisely that.
Coaches raved about Tatis' work ethic during his transition. They cited the way he looked shaky early in Spring Training but was already rock solid by the time his season began in mid-April.
Despite missing the first 20 games to complete his suspension, Tatis led the Majors with 29 defensive runs saved in 2023. His 11 outs above average were tops among right fielders. Tatis was as steady as he was dazzling -- and did he ever dazzle. He showcased his elite arm to nab 12 outfield assists, and he also provided perhaps the Padres' defensive highlight of the season, skying to rob a home run against St. Louis on Sept. 24.
"It was a new challenge, since the beginning of the year, moving out there," Tatis said after that robbery. "I embraced it. I feel like everybody has seen the results, and I’m very happy with it."
Entering the season, there were significantly fewer question marks about Kim's glove. He'd always been an elite defender -- wherever he played. The only question was: Where would he play?
As it turned out, the arrival of Bogaerts pushed Kim primarily to second base. But when Bogaerts dealt with left wrist trouble, Kim slid to short. When Manny Machado moved into a DH role while dealing with a balky right elbow, Kim played some third.
The Padres even began alternating Kim's position based on the tendencies of their pitcher. A starter who induced more ground balls to the left side meant Kim was playing third. A starter who induced grounders to the right side meant Kim at second.
Kim finished as a significant plus at all three positions. He was worth 10 defensive runs saved at second base and three apiece at short and third.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Kim's season was how rarely he'd played second base before 2023 -- and how seamlessly he made the transition. The same, of course, applied to Tatis.
In fact, with Gold Glove Awards in their first season after a position switch, Kim and Tatis joined some exclusive company. Excluding rookies, only four players had won the award in their first season at a new position (defined as the position they played the most, while grouping all three outfield spots together).
The list: the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg at second base in 1983, the Reds’ Pokey Reese at second base in ‘99, the Blue Jays’ Marcus Semien at second base in 2021 and the Orioles’ Ramón Urías at third base in ‘22.
The Padres have multiple winners in a season for the first time since outfielder Steve Finley and third baseman Ken Caminiti took home the honors in 1996.