Each year, Major League Baseball rewards the best fielders at each position with a Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Historically, the selection process for this award has been based largely on subjectivity, anecdotal evidence and a player’s reputation as a good defender.

With the explosion of advanced stats in the past decade, however, we are now able to more accurately evaluate players in all facets of the game, including defense. This allows us to get a clearer picture of who really are the game’s best (and worst) fielders.

Since MLB will cover the best defensive players with the end-of-season awards, PointAfter decided to look at the worst defensive players at each position. Using data from Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus, we’ve identified the worst defenders at each position in both the National and American Leagues. These selections were mostly determined by Fangraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average (Def) statistic, which measures a player’s defensive value based on the number of runs he prevents relative to the rest of the league, regardless of position.

They say age goes before beauty, so we’ll start with the National League’s worst fielding lineup, then run through the American League.

Some of the players on this list are good enough offensively to compensate for their defensive shortcomings, while others might be wise to spend the offseason learning a new position.

Note: All stats reflect games played prior to Sept. 30.

NL Pitcher: Shelby Miller

Defensive Runs Above Average: 7.0
Errors: 5

It’s difficult for pitchers to have a particularly low Def rating, simply because they don’t get that many fielding opportunities, so Miller’s 7.0 rating is nothing to be ashamed of.

What is alarming, however, are the five errors he’s made this season, the most of any National League pitchers. That alone is reason enough for him to receive the Brick Glove Award.

NL Catcher: Carlos Ruiz

Defensive Runs Above Average: 3.0
Errors: 10

Last season, Ruiz ranked fifth among all catchers with a 14.8 Def rating. That number has dropped to 3.0 this season, second-worst in the NL among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances.

His 10 errors are a career-worst and tops in the league among catchers. He is also the worst pitch framer in the league, according to Baseball Prospectus, which determines the difference between the number of strikes a catcher is expected to receive (based on pitch location) and the number of strikes he actually receives.

NL First Baseman: Pedro Alvarez

Defensive Runs Above Average: -21.2
Errors: 21

Generally speaking, the worst defensive players are put at first base. It is a relatively low-stress position, which is why Alvarez’s 21 (!!) errors are really quite astounding, especially considering that the next most error-prone first baseman (Jose Abreu) has only 11.

Prior to 2015, Alvarez spent the previous five seasons at third base, where he was also an error machine. He committed 107 errors in 554 games from 2010 to 2014 at the hot corner. He’s made a career-worst 18 fielding errors this season, and his -21.2 Def is the worst among all Major League first basemen.

NL Second Baseman: Neil Walker

Defensive Runs Above Average: -5.5
Errors: 7

Ground balls on the right side of the Pirates infield have been tricky this season. Walker hasn’t been nearly as error-prone as Alvarez, but his Def rating takes a hit because of his limited range. Fangraphs has his Range Runs—the number of runs he saves with his range relative to the average second baseman—at -9.8.

That causes his Def rating to plummet to -5.5, the worst mark of his career since his rookie season. Walker has been a steady offensive contributor for his career, so the Pirates are able to live with his defensive shortcomings. Still, having him and Alvarez on the same side of the infield puts their defense in a precarious position.

NL Third Baseman: Yunel Escobar

Defensive Runs Above Average: -5.2
Errors: 6

Escobar moved to third base for the Nationals after spnding nearly all of his major league career at shortstop. Despite a relatively modest six errors, his -5.2 Def rating ranked worst among all NL players with at least 80 games at third base.

Once considered an elite defensive player, he has now become a liability at age 32. Fangraphs has his Range Runs rating at -11.1, which puts more strain on Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond to cover more ground on the left side. He’s also had issues with errant throws to first base, with five throwing errors this season. A move to a less demanding position like second base could be in Escobar’s future.

NL Shortstop: Eugenio Suarez

Defensive Runs Above Average: -7.6
Errors: 19

Despite playing in just 91 games, Suarez’s 19 errors at shortstop are second-most in the National League. His -7.6 Def rating is the worst among all NL shortstops, and Fangraphs grades him as having very limited range, with a -5.9 Range Runs rating.

NL Left Fielder: Khris Davis

Defensive Runs Above Average: -10.0
Errors: 5

Davis ranks last in the NL in Def rating among players with at least 100 games in left field. Fangraphs grades his arm poorly, with a -10.3 rating in runs saved above average.

Davis has set career highs this season with 26 home runs and a 10.5 percent walk rate, so he’s proving his worth in the batters box. In the field, however, he still has plenty of area for improvement.

NL Center Fielder: Angel Pagan

Defensive Runs Above Average: -13.3
Errors: 4

Pagan has never been considered an elite defensive center fielder, but he has been at least serviceable throughout his career. This season, he’s posted a career-worst -13.3 Def rating. Fangraphs rates his arm at -5.4 runs saved above average and his range at -9.5, the lowest marks of his career.

Making matters worse has been his offensive decline. Pagan’s .302 on-base percentage and .335 slugging percentage are career lows, and at age 34, he is unlikely to show much improvement for the remainder of his career. Even more disconcerting is the fact that he is due to make $10 million dollars next season, the final year of his contract.

NL Right Fielder: Matt Kemp

Defensive Runs Above Average: -24.6
Errors: 8

No player in all of baseball has a lower Def rating than Kemp’s -24.6. His eight errors (four fielding errors, four throwing errors) are tied with Gregory Polanco for the most among all right fielders, and his overall performance in 2015 is already making the Padres regret trading for him this past offseason.

Kemp has been plagued by injuries since the 2012 season, and though he has played in 304 games in the past two years, he clearly does not have the athleticism he once did. Fangraphs grades him poorly in just about every category, but especially his range, which is worth -12.2 runs above average.

Once a feared offensive presence, Kemp’s weighted on-base average—a stat used to measure a player’s overall offensive value—is .325 this season, well below his 2014 mark of .369. He is under contract through the 2019 season, and it would be a surprise if he were able to turn things around by the time he hits the free agent market.

AL Pitcher: Scott Kazmir

Defensive Runs Above Average: 0.4
Errors: 7

Kazmir’s Def rating is low for a pitcher, but what earns him the Brick Glove Award are his league-worst seven errors.

For a pitcher with a relatively modest walk rate of 2.87 per nine innings, Kazmir has been erratic once the ball has been put in play, with five throwing errors this season. Prior to this year, he had never made more than three errors in a single season.

AL Catcher: Stephen Vogt

Defensive Runs Above Average: 1.0
Errors: 5

Vogt has been one of the few highlights in what has been a dismal 2015 season for the Athletics. He made his first career All-Star team and is sixth among all catchers with 18 home runs.

Vogt has not provided much in the way of defense. His 1.0 Def rating is the worst among all AL catchers with at least 250 plate appearances, and Baseball Prospectus ranks him 90th out of 108 in pitch framing. As long as his bat continues to produce, however, the A’s will gladly accept his defensive shortcomings.

AL First Baseman: Jose Abreu

Defensive Runs Above Average: -14.5
Errors: 11

The 2014 AL Rookie of the Year quickly established himself as one of the most feared hitters in the league, but that reputation has not translated to any sort of defensive prominence.

To be fair, Abreu wasn’t signed to a $68 million contract because the White Sox fancied him an elite fielder. As long as he continues to hit well, the team will not be too concerned with his lack of defensive prowess.

Still, his -14.5 Def rating and 11 errors are worst among all AL first basemen.

AL Second Baseman: Johnny Giavotella

Defensive Runs Above Average: -6.4
Errors: 11

In his first season as a full-time Major League starter, Giavotella has proven to be a spark plug for the Angels with his hustle and energy. What he hasn’t been, however, is an adequate defensive second baseman.

Giavotella’s -6.4 Def rating is the lowest among full-time AL second basemen, and his 11 errors are the third-most. Fangraphs rates his range as being worth -7.7 runs above average, which greatly impacts his overall defensive rating.

AL Third Baseman: Pablo Sandoval

Defensive Runs Above Average: -15.1
Errors: 15

The first year of Sandoval’s five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox has been an absolute disaster. The former World Series MVP has languished in the batter’s box and had plenty of miscues on defense as well.

Fangraphs rates Sandoval’s range as being worth -14.6 runs above average. Offensively, his .288 weighted on-base average is by far the worst of his career.

AL Shortstop: Marcus Semien

Defensive Runs Above Average: -3.3
Errors: 34

Semien’s Def rating of -3.3 is the lowest among all shortstops with at least 100 games at the position, but what cements his status as the AL’s Brick Glove Award Winner is that second number—his league-leading 34 (!!!) errors.

Semien has had issues both fielding and throwing this season, with 16 fielding errors and 18 throwing errors. Fangraphs grades his range as being worth 1.6 runs above average, so if he can cut down on his many mistakes, he should progress into at least an adequate defensive shortstop.

AL Left Fielder: Hanley Ramirez

Defensive Runs Above Average: -23.4
Errors: 4

The second of Boston’s ill-fated free agent signings, Ramirez’s disastrous attempts at playing left field have been well-documented.

Ramirez’s fielding struggles this season should not have been the least bit surprising considering the fact that he had never played in the outfield at the professional level. He has three more years left on his contract, with a vesting option for the fourth, which means that the Red Sox must either invest a lot of time improving his outfield defense or find him another position for next season.

AL Center Fielder: Adam Eaton

Defensive Runs Above Average: -9.7
Errors: 5

Acquired from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2014 season in a three-team trade, Eaton has been a productive player during his two seasons in Chicago. Per Fangraphs, he’s totaled 6.4 Wins Above Replacement with the White Sox, demonstrating good on-base skills at the top of their lineup.

Where Eaton struggles, however, is on defense. His -9.7 Def rating is the worst among all AL center fielders. Fangraphs rates his arm at -2.9 runs above average, while his range is -7.7. His salary is relatively inexpensive, and he is under team control through 2021, so the White Sox are most likely fine with his lack of defensive value. Still, moving Eaton to a corner outfield spot might not be a bad idea if the team can find a suitable replacement in center field.

AL Right Fielder: Jose Bautista

Defensive Runs Above Average: -19.3
Errors: 3

Since coming out of nowhere and hitting 54 home runs in 2010, Bautista has been one of the most feared right-handed hitters in all of baseball. He’s clubbed 226 home runs in the past six seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down, even as he nears his 35th birthday.

There’s a reason he’s known as Joey Bats and not Joey Gloves, though. Bautista’s -19.3 Def rating is the lowest among full-time AL right fielders. As long as he continues to do things like this, the Blue Jays will not care one bit about his defensive play.

Learn More About MLB Players at PointAfter


Stay Connected

Join over 100,000 of your peers and receive our weekly newsletter which features the top trends, news and expert analysis to help keep you ahead of the curve