Kiner-Falefa, Gallo win 1st Gold Gloves

November 4th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- and began the season for the Rangers in new roles and ended it by winning Gold Gloves for defensive excellence.

Kiner-Falefa, who went into Spring Training hoping to win a job as a utility infielder, was honored as the top defensive third baseman in the American League. Gallo earned the honor in his first season as the Rangers' right fielder.

“Proud of both guys,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “They both definitely earned the Gold Glove with a ton of hard work and the relentless mentality to be the best at their position.”

Due to the shortened season in 2020 and the regional structure to the regular-season schedule, winners for this year were determined using the SABR Defensive Index, a statistical measurement which combines several different metrics.

Kiner-Falefa, who two years ago was trying to secure his future as a big league catcher, won ahead of finalists Gio Urshela of the Yankees and Yoán Moncada of the White Sox.

“It means the world to me,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Especially with what I had to go through in the Minor Leagues. I felt I never got credit for how good I was in the field. The fact that I had to move to catcher just to try to help the team. To get back in the infield where I know I can be successful and win a Gold Glove, especially after being sent down as a catcher, to win a Gold Glove shows the organization I am a real player.”

Gallo beat out right-field finalists Clint Frazier of the Yankees and Anthony Santander of the Orioles. It was the first Gold Glove for both Kiner-Falefa and Gallo. They are also the first Gold Glove winners for the Rangers since first baseman Mitch Moreland and third baseman Adrian Beltre in 2016.

Gallo is only the third Rangers outfielder to win a Gold Glove Award. Juan Beniquez won it in 1977 and Gary Pettis did so in 1990. Beniquez and Pettis were both center fielders, making Gallo the first Rangers corner outfielder to win the award.

“It’s pretty special because I have been known as a home run hitter or a DH or somebody who either hits home runs or strikes out,” Gallo said. “But I take a lot of pride in playing defense. To be rewarded for that and pay off in winning a Gold Glove, I never thought I would be here but I’m pretty excited.”

Gallo started 53 games in right field this season after just 16 games at the position prior to that. Those 16 games came in 2018 as Gallo alternated primarily between left and center field in 2019. He was the Rangers' Opening Day third baseman in 2017, started at first base on Opening Day in 2018 and in left field in 2019 before switching to right this season.

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“Never really had the opportunity to win this award because I was moving around the field so much,” Gallo said. “So I knew I had a shot this year playing right field, getting everyday reps and not moving around. I tried to take advantage of that. I’m really proud of that and I am proud of Isiah, too -- unbelievable what he did after catching, winning a Gold Glove at third base. That’s crazy.”

According to Statcast, Gallo led all Major League outfielders with 12 defensive runs saved. That was second most for any position behind Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado with 15.

“Joey winning is important for him to shed the one-trick-pony label,” Woodward said. “He is a complete player that locked down that right-field spot better than anybody in baseball. His mentality to be the best right fielder was on display every night.”

Kiner-Falefa is the third Rangers third baseman to win the award. Buddy Bell won six for the Rangers from 1979-84 and Beltre won three in 2011-12 and ’16. According to STATS LLC, Kiner-Falefa had the highest zone rating among third basemen in the American League and Statcast had him as the leader at the position in the AL with five outs above average.

Kiner-Falefa was a fourth-round Draft pick as an infielder out of Mid-Pacific Institute of Honolulu in 2013. The Rangers began using him as a catcher in the Minor Leagues in 2016. He played in 73 games at the position for the Rangers in 2018-19 before being moved back to the infield for good midway through the 2019 season.

“Kiner winning speaks volumes of his character, work ethic and ultimate belief in himself,” Woodward said. “To play the way he did this year at third base was very special. Although not surprising to many in the organization, he told me in 2019 that he was our best infielder.”

Kiner-Falefa played in 25 games at third base in 2019 after giving up the catching equipment. He won the third-base job in Spring Training, but then had to do it all over again after the three-month shutdown and reset for Summer Camp.