While a lot of our IBI awards are decided based on strong statistical arguments, but if we know anything about minor league defensive stats, we know that they won’t tell us anything. So this one is a bit of an eye test along with some stats and evidenced-based factors for the 2021 IBI Defensive Prospect of the Year.

IBI 2021 Defensive prospect of the year nominees

SS Gabriel Arias

Arias impressed all year playing shortstop and some third base in Columbus. He made rangey plays look easy and showed off a big arm. Physically, he’s a big-league shortstop and has Gold Glove skills.

C Bryan Lavastida

Statistically, Lavastida led the High-A Central in Baseball Prospectus’ framing runs. His throwing and blocking lagged behind some, but his caught stealing results got better once he got to Double-A thanks to not having the weird pickoff rule High-A had. Pitchers praised his game-calling and receiving all year long, so Lavastida grew a lot this year defensively. Framing might not be a stat that matters for a lot longer, so he’ll need the other areas of his defensive game to come along, but he was a good defensive catcher this year in terms of growth.

SS Brayan Rocchio

Rocchio finally had a chance to show off his reputation for being a smooth defender. He used his fundamental skills, smoothness and range to make the routine plays look routine and made some tough ones. His arm and quickness were tested and he proved he can play shortstop long term with above-average defense. He also proved that he can play second base and third base should those needs arrive.

SS Jose Tena

While Tena started the year at second base and some third base, once Rocchio was promoted Tena took over shortstop full time. There was no question about Tena’s arm and range once he got the spot. He ended up being voted as the best defensive shortstop in the league by the managers in the High-A Central per Baseball America’s results.

IBI 2021 Defensive prospect of the year: SS Gabriel Arias

Arias is the undisputed best defensive prospect in the organization right now. He has every tool and skill you need in a good defensive shortstop. He has range that makes things look easy and has the best arm to go with it. He’s physically gifted to go along with those tools and flash.

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