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SF Giants prospects Patrick Bailey and Casey Schmitt win MiLB Gold Glove Awards

Patrick Bailey and Casey Schmitt, the SF Giants first two picks in the 2020 MLB Draft, were each awarded a minor-league Gold Glove last week.

Almost a week ago, Minor League Baseball and Rawlings announced the recipients of the 2022 Gold Glove Awards for their defensive excellence this season. It is the 12th straight year that the renowned award was given to minor leaguers. The SF Giants were the only organization to have multiple players receive the award this season with catcher Patrick Bailey and third baseman Casey Schmitt. Bailey and Schmitt were the Giants respective first and second-round picks in the 2020 MLB Draft.

SF Giants catcher Patrick Bailey throws a ball back to the pitcher while Austin Slater bats at the alternate site. (2020)

After spending all season at High-A with the Eugene Emeralds, Bailey received the Gold Glove award for the toughest position in baseball. Bailey played 72 games behind the dish and for the second straight year, finished with a 98.9% fielding percentage and 12 passed balls.  Bailey winning the award was surprising. While he has an excellent defensive reputation, and has plus defensive potential, his errors and passed ball numbers were both higher than ideal. Moreover, his caught-stealing rate of 30.0% was only above-average. 

It's important to note that High-A enacted rule changes to aid basestealers this season, making Bailey's 30.0% caught-stealing rate more impressive than it seems on the surface. Moreover, Bailey has built a reputation as a great pitch framer. Pitch framing data is not publicly available in the minors yet, but Bailey's soft mitt and excellent pitch presentation to the home plate umpire seemed to help Emeralds pitchers steal strikes all season long.

There have been massive talks about the death of pitch framing with the advent of the automatic ball-strike (ABS) system which would make the art of pitch framing a relic of the past. The argument is that catchers will essentially turn into catch-and-throw and ball-blocking bots defensively. However, increasing support for a "challenge flag" system that would keep an actual human calling balls and strikes would maintain the value of framing.

There were certainly more athletic and consistent catchers in the minors than Bailey. While Bailey would make some incredible defensive plays, he was also mistake-prone. Still, voters seemed to believe that Bailey's high-end plays and framing made up for those issues.

For a look at Bailey's framing prowess, check out the clinic he put on in Trevor McDonald's 11-strikeout performance late in the season.

Bailey's win may have been a surprise, but Casey Schmitt was probably the easiest vote on the ballot. Schmitt committed 10 errors at the hot corner across three levels, but this time around, the video paints a better picture than the stats. Schmitt's combination of excellent footwork, soft hands, clean first step, and ability to read the ball off the bat alongside one of the strongest and most accurate arms in the minors makes Schmitt a tantalizing defensive prospect. Ever since he was drafted and slotted to play full-time at third base, the Matt Chapman comps have never faded away. After reaching Triple-A in a breakout 2022 season, the similarities are even more apparent.

Schmitt was such a good defender that he became the Emeralds primary shortstop when Marco Luciano missed time with a back injury this season. Normally, a career third baseman like Schmitt would look out of place when thrust into playing shortstop on an extended basis. However, he looked like a natural defender at the position despite his limited range, and made just five errors in 40 games at short.

By showcasing his skills in the toughest infield position, Schmitt opened doors to possibilities that were never even considered before. Schmitt is the best bet in the SF Giants' farm system to eventually win an MLB Gold Glove, and he might be able to offer value at shortstop too.

For now, enjoy Schmitt's defensive prowess at shortstop this season compiled by my buddy Sean Bialaszek.