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Who is May's top defensive player?

June 1, 2018
 When the Brewers signed center fielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million contract in January, they were hoping they’d get the best version of him. That would be the one who saved an average of 18.5 runs defensively from 2013 to 2016 and had more Range and Positioning Runs Saved than any center fielder in that span.

They got that and then some in May. Cain is the Sports Info Solutions Defensive Player of the Month. The award is voted on by Sports Info Solutions staff and baseball media.

Cain is currently tied with Lewis Brinson of the Marlins for the MLB lead in Defensive Runs Saved among CF with 8. Cain saved 6 of those runs this month.

What makes Cain great is the combination of his ability to turn batted balls into outs and throwing out baserunners trying to advance. His former manager, Ned Yost, once said you might "need binoculars" to see Cain’s ceiling, because it was so high. He’s trying to live up to it now.

Cain rates above average on balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark. He’s shown a flare for coming in to make the nifty catch, including the diving plays linked to here and here.

Also of note is that Cain’s arm doesn’t usually rate well statistically. He cost his team six runs with his inability to throw out baserunners and prevent advancement last season. Only Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies rated worse among center fielders (7).

But this season, Cain already has saved three runs with his arm. He has five unaided assists (those made without a cutoff man).

The Brewers are 36-21 after going 19-8 in May and defense has been highly important to their success. They lead all teams with 54 Defensive Runs Saved. They’ve gotten 22 runs saved from their outfield, which trails only the Diamondbacks (24).

Cain joins April's winner, Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman, as winners of this monthly award.

Best of the Rest

May’s runner-up for top defender was Mariners third baseman, Kyle Seager.

Seager led all third basemen with 12 Good Fielding Plays and saved 5 runs defensively. His highlight reel included a diving stop and throw-out on Kevin Pillar’s ground ball in the seventh inning of James Paxton’s eventual no-hitter against the Blue Jays.

Seager wasn’t the only Mariners defender to have a great month on defense. Catcher Mike Zunino tied for third in our balloting with Astros utility man Marwin Gonzalez. Zunino threw out 9 of 17 runners attempting to steal and also rated well in our pitch framing metric with 2 Strike Zone Runs Saved.

Gonzalez had a good month at two positions – left field and first base. The Astros lead the American League in Defensive Runs Saved for the season, with Gonzalez chipping in small but positive contributions at three positions (those two and second base).



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