Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond named Gold Glove finalists

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First baseman Adam LaRoche and shortstop Ian Desmond are the Nationals’ only two finalists for the National League Gold Glove awards, which will be announced Tuesday night on ESPN 2. Neither LaRoche nor Desmond has previously won a Gold Glove.

Desmond, 27, made a rapid ascent from an error-prone rookie to a shortstop worthy of Gold Glove consideration. In 2010, his rookie season, Desmond made 34 errors – the most among all major league players – with a .947 fielding percentage.

This year, Desmond made 15 errors with a .970 fielding percentage, which ranked seventh in the NL among shortstops. Pitchers frequently pointed to his calming influence during games. His outstanding range and strong, accurate arm helped give the Nationals one of the best infield defenses in the majors. Desmond ranked fourth in the NL with a 6.5 UZR/150, the metric FanGraphs.com uses to gauge the number of defensive runs a player saves per 150 games.

Desmond will be up against Zack Cozart of the Reds, Jose Reyes of the Marlins and Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies.

LaRoche, 32, has long been considered a top defensive first baseman, known for his effortless style and slick glovework on low throws. His ability to scoop throws in the dirt imbued the Nationals’ infield with confidence and saved who-knows-how-many errors. LaRoche made seven errors, including zero throwing errors, and ranked second in the league with a .995 fielding percentage.

The other two first-base finalists are the Reds’ Joey Votto and the Braves’ Freddie Freeman.

In the first seven seasons after baseball returned to Washington, the only Gold Glove the Nationals have won came in 2009, when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman won the award. Zimmerman, still regarded as an elite third baseman despite occasional gaffes on routine throws, was beaten out this year by Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez and David Wright.

Second baseman Danny Espinosa, who has one of the strongest infield arms in baseball, had a case to at least be a finalist. The second-base finalists are Darwin Barney, Aaron Hill and Brandon Phillips.

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