Heading into the season the Tampa Bay Rays wanted to get back to being a good defensive team. They signed Colby Rasmus to man left field. They re-signed Logan Morrison in part for his defense (compared to other free agent options).Peter Bourjos was picked up for cash considerations at the end of spring training. Their first trade in July was for Adeiny Hechavarria.
The defensive metrics were fans of the Rays work. At the Fielding Bible via Baseball Info Solutions the Rays were the best team on the defensive side of the ball.
The defense saved an impressive 89 runs with 38 credited to shifting. They led the league with 51 DRS ignoring shifting.
How does DRS breakdown by position:
Alex Cobb was the leader among pitchers at +6 DRS. Blake Snell (+3), Jacob Faria (+2), Alex Colome (+1), and Ryan Garton (+1) were the others who came in above average. Chris Archer (-3), Steve Cishek (-3), and Austin Pruitt (-4) were the laggards of the group.
None of the four catchers the Rays used this year came in above average. Jesus Sucre (-1), Daniel Norris (-2), and Wilson Ramos (-6) all received 450-500 innings behind the plate and cost the team a handful of runs each. Curt Casali came in at 0 in 28.0 innings.
First Base: +3
Logan Morrison (+1) was a very solid defender at first and received the bulk of the playing time. Lucas Duda (-1) received the second most playing time but only played 195.0 innings at first. Rickie Weeks, Jr (+1), Taylor Featherston (+1), and Trevor Plouffe (+1) all were positives at the position in less than 100 innings.
Second Base: -5
It comes as no real surprise that Brad Miller (-4) is the primary offender here. He isn’t an awful defender, but for a team whose focus seems to be on defense he stands out. Neither Danny Espinosa (-2) nor Taylor Featherston (-1) helped the team total. Daniel Robertson (+1) and Tim Beckham (+1) were the positive performers.
The Rays summer acquisition of Adeiny Hechavarria (+6) paid off on the defensive side of the ball. Tim Beckham (0) held his own in 607 innings. Daniel Robertson (+2) showed good defense in 160.0 innings.
Third Base: +10
Evan Longoria (+11) returned to being one of the best defenders at the hot corner. He played all but 205 innings at third base for the Rays. Michael Martinez (+1) was the only other player to put up a positive total. Tim Beckham (-1) and Taylor Featherston (-1) brought down the team total.
Left Field: +8
Corey Dickerson (-1) received the bulk of the playing time with 753 innings. He’s out there for his bat, but held his own. Colby Rasmus (+4) was expected to see most of the playing time but only managed 169.1 innings before choosing to leave the team after suffering another injury. Mallex Smith (+2), Cesar Puello (+2), and Peter Bourjos (+1) provided 402 innings of solid defense.
Center Field: +26
Kevin Kiermaier (+22) got off to a slow start this season, but came on strong after missing two months with a broken hip. Kiermaier’s +22 runs saved trails only Byron Buxton’s 24 in the majors despite playing over 300 fewer innings in the field. Mallex Smith (+3) and Peter Bourjos (+1) did a good filling in for Kiermaier while he was on the disabled list.
Right Field: +12
Steven Souza, Jr. (+7) played all but 245.0 innings in right field for the Rays. Sometimes he’s going to look a bit silly out there, but he does a good job overall. Peter Bourjos (+4) was very good in 76.0 innings. Shane Peterson (+1) helped out in his short time.