On Monday, Baseball America surveyed MLB’s best tools in 2021 for American League players (I assume they did National League too). The American League side surveyed AL Managers, executives, and scouts to rate who has the best tools in specific categories. There were twenty-five categories, and the top three vote-getters were announced. Among the categories, two Rangers found themselves on the list in three categories.
These are all among AL players:
Rangers' Isiah Kiner-Falefa made this list twice: 3rd in best Hit-and-run Artist & 2nd in defensive SS behind JP Crawford.
— Alex Plinck🏳️🌈 (@aplinckTX) August 30, 2021
The survey responders voted Nathaniel Lowe the third-best defensive first baseman in the American League behind Matt Olson and Yuli Gurriel. “I really appreciate that,” Lowe told me before Monday’s game against the Rockies. “It’s something that is a step as far as making me a complete player. To be recognized in the eyes of peers and coworkers like that it’s an honor and its encouragement to move forward.” Now I want to make something clear here. It’s a survey based on the best tools and not necessarily what the metrics and stats say. Lowe’s stats aren’t too kind, with a -4 defensive runs saved metric and a -11.0 defensive rating. But, as Lowe said, it’s encouraging that the league acknowledges his positive plays and that he’s not only scrutinized on the mistakes.
“I know how hard he works. I don’t think Nate’s reputation all the way up as he was a great defender. He works as hard as anybody that I’ve been around. He’s gotten a lot better from Spring Training to now,” manager Chris Woodward said. He also stated that Lowe has worked in getting first-step quickness, ranging, and turning double plays. “He’s got a good arm [and] he’s really athletic out there.”
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) July 3, 2021
Elsewhere, Isiah Kiner-Falefa finished in the top three in two categories. First, Isiah finished second in defensive shortstops (behind JP Crawford of the Mariners). Second, IKF finished third in Hit-and-Run Artists, which I would assume means executing the hit-and-run effectively. Isiah fell just behind of Whitt Merrifield and David Fletcher. “I think that’s pretty cool even to be recognized. I’ve never been in those prospect votes, so it’s cool to get recognition.”
Kiner-Falefa not only leads all AL shortstops in defensive runs saved, but all MLB shortstops with 15 defensive runs saved. His overall defensive metric ranks third among AL shortstops. However, JP Crawford isn’t higher up on any of those categories. I think Izzy is one of the best in that. Crawford I do believe is good, I’d have him similar as far as defensive shortstops go,” Woodward said. With that said, Isiah’s goal, if you’re not number one, its go-time to get there. “I always want to be number one, so I have work to do,” Kiner-Falefa told me.
For these guys, it’s a treasure to earn that acknowledgment. “It’s great for those guys to see that and to hear that,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward told me. “It’s hard to get recognition in this game, but when you do, you want to make sure they are aware of it.”
While it’s a building block for Nathaniel Lowe defensively, for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the recognition is good, but there’s more of a prize that’s on the line. “To get recognized at this level this late in the year means a lot,” Kiner-Falefa told me. “The big one is at the end of the year. That’s the one I want.” He’s certainly at the top or close to add another gold to his glove. Here’s a link to the poll conducted.
Maaaan they doubted us but we’re golden!!! No one can take this from us!! Get you a ring big guy!! pic.twitter.com/XMYxH441DP
— Isiah Kiner-Falefa (@Isiahkf11) July 29, 2021