The most highly anticipated article of the year has finally come back and this year is even better than 2012 after the additions of Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn and Mark Reynolds to the team. This year's top ten defensive play list features dives, bare handed grabs, plays at the plate and more fantastic exciting plays. Using super secret calculations, there were 164 above average plays, 70 great plays and eight amazing plays. Seven different players made this year's list, with extra links provided to keep from showing ten videos of Bourn flying all over the place.
The Five That Almost Made It:
Michael Bourn – Diving Double Play Surprise
Michael Brantley – Don't Be Greedy
Asdrubal Cabrera – Pitchers Only Make Things Harder
Michael Brantley – Flying in to Save the Day
Asdrubal Cabrera – Behind the Back, No Look, Good for Two
10. Vinnie Pestano – June 21st – Do it Yourself
Who says a pitcher can't make a fine defensive play on his own? This was the only "great play" made by any pitcher all season and was worthy of the top ten. Not only was it an impressive bare hand and throw, but it provided the final out of the game, cementing another Indians win.
9. Michael Brantley – August 5th – Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200
This was my personal favorite play of the year, although it didn't have the importance or flash factor as the plays higher in the rankings. Watch the play a couple times as it truly is spectacular and look out for a few things that make it really stand out. Unlike most outfield assists, Brantley is retreating, meaning he will have to throw the ball much harder than if he was running in to make the catch. The throw was still perfect, hitting Mark Reynolds on the line. Finally, Reynolds instincts to come off the bag and make the quick tag just in time are also to be commended.
8. Ryan Raburn – July 28th – What Did That Wall Do To You?
The Indians didn't even know if Raburn could play outfield this year, until some experimenting at the end of Spring Training. He ended up being a huge plus in right field, both with his glove and his arm (keep reading). On this play against the Rangers, Raburn ran at a dead spring towards right center where he made the catch and banged into the wall. The play went for the first out in the 8th and the Indians hung on for the 6-0 win.
7. Mark Reynolds – June 19th – More Like "Cat" Reynolds
Reynolds was signed as a DH and was never expected to play in the field. Struggles by Lonnie Chisenhall and Drew Stubbs changed this however, and he was pressed into duty at first and third. Rather than being a defensive liability, he was a plus at both positions and this was his best play as a first baseman. The Royals had runners on second and third with two outs when Reynolds got dirty and grabbed an Alex Gordon line drive that would have easily scored both runs.
Carlos Santana had a similar situation against the Royals later in the season, except the runners were on first and second and he dove to his right, meaning he probably saved a one run single rather than a two run double.
6. Mike Aviles – June 15th – Don't Call Me A Back-Up
"Goon Squad" member, Mike Aviles was thrown into a starting role for much of the season and just happened to be paying short stop against the Nationals on this day. With the tying run on third, Aviles charged in and barehanded a ball that dropped on the grass behind the pitcher's mound. Lonnie Chisenhall made things even more difficult by getting in his way, but a strong through got Steve Lombardozzi at first to end the inning.
5. Michael Brantley – June 17th – Another "Driving" Catch By Brantley
Not to outdone by the two new outfield acquisitions, Brantley flashed more than a little leather in 2013. While he was more known for his arm, he still had a few diving catches like this one against the Royals that robbed Chris Getz of at least a double.
4. Ryan Raburn – April 6th – Double Play the Hard Way
There are few plays in baseball more exciting than a play at the plate and there were two that stuck out in 2013. The best was this Raburn double play that saw him make a catch running in toward home against Tampa Bay with one out and the bases loaded. One run was already in and the Rays were looking to run away with things with a sacrifice fly, but Raburn had other thoughts. His throw was slightly up the line, but got to the plate so quickly, Lou Marson had plenty of time to tag out Matt Joyce at the plate.
The runner up in the play at the plate category was by a different right fielder to a different catcher. This time, Nick Swisher threw to Yan Gomes to catch Mark Trumbo against the Angels to end the fourth inning.
3. Jason Kipnis – September 29th – Ending the Season in Style
Sometimes a play is spectacular because it is important and sometimes a play is important because it is spectacular. This play was both. With two outs in the ninth inning of the final game of the year, a game the Indians knew they needed to win to take the top Wild Card spot, Justin Masterson was on the mound pitching to Clete Thomas of the Twins. Thomas hit a ball in the hole between first and second and Kipnis made a tremendous diving stop. He threw the ball to Masterson to complete the out as Nick Swisher watched from his knees. It would be very hard to find a play that ended a season that was better than this.
2. Michael Bourn – September 4th – The Flash Can Fly
Apparently, Bourn only runs while on the base paths because he would have to come down to touch the bases anyway. In the outfield, Bourn has been diving all over the place all year. This particular dive was picked as a representative of all those dives. Against Baltimore, Bourn dove full out, running to his right to end the game.
1. Mark Reynolds – June 10th – Bad Call, Great Play.
A bad call by the first base umpire made this play almost not eligible for the top ten, but Nick Swisher saved it with a throw to third. With a runner on first and nobody out, Reynolds stole a double from Mitch Moreland with a dive across the foul line, throwing a seed across the diamond to beat him to the base as well. Moreland was called safe with a terrible call. Thinking fast, Swisher was able to get the ball back to Reynolds, who was covering third, to tag out David Murphy a few feet in front of the base. To add some more pain to the play, Reynolds was spiked by Murphy going into third.
These were pretty good, but if you want to see something amazing, check out the Top Ten Plays of 2011. The top four plays from that season have not been beaten in the past two years. Check out last year's list here as well. All video courtesy of MLB.com.