By Reynaldo Cruz Díaz
When the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were selected following the 2021 MLB season, and Cuban Adolis García was not among those selected, many fans in the island were outraged at what they considered a major injustice. The talented outfielder was also unfairly deprived from being a finalist among Rookie of the Year candidates, an award that was–in consolation–won by also Cuban Randy Arozarena.
García, a talented fielder with a spectacular arm tied with Boston Red Sox RF Hunter Renfroe for the MLB lead in outfield assists with 16, and made a lot of plays that ended in the highlight reels, both in center field and in right field, many of them homerun robberies. But his versatility kept him from having his defensive prowess recognized.
El Bombi played 134 games in the outfield, but only 51 of them in right field, mainly after Joey Gallo–the ultimate Gold Glove winner in the position–departed to the New York Yankees. He had started as a centerfielder, with 79 games at the position, appearances that, in both cases, are not good enough to make him eligible for the award.
However, the glovework of the Cuban youngster, who had his first All-Star appearance this past season, was impressive as a full time outfielder (he even saw action in 9 games in left field. He made four errors, three in center and one in right, and participated in three double plays, one in center and two in right. But perhaps, what can easily be measured as a testament of his defensive values is that he split his MLB-leading assists almost evenly between center and right: he tied for fourth in assists as a center fielder with seven, and tied with Gallo for the fourth place in assists as a right fielder.
For a player who did not even play half a season (81 games) in any of the two positions, ranking among the top five in assists for both is pretty impressive. He also tied for fourth place with his two double plays from right. Compiling his performance in all three outfield positions, José Adolis was fifth in MLB in putouts with 325, tied for first in assists (as mentioned before), tied for second with three double plays turned.
His advanced metrics were also jaw dropping: his 12 Total Zone Runs as a rightfielder were fourth in all of MLB, despite having played only 51 games. Meanwhile, his 17 as an outfielder placed him second in both circuits, just two behind Adam Duvall. His 2.54 Range Factor as an outfielder was fourth best in all of baseball. He was definitely one of the highlights of a Texas Rangers team that finished fifth in the American League West.
Unfortunately for the Ciego de Ávila native, the rules of selection for the Gold Glove require that all infielders and outfielders “… must have played in the field for at least 713 total innings through his team’s 141st game: this equates to playing in the field for approximately 7.5 innings per game in approximately 67% of his team’s games by his team’s 141st game; this ensures that only full-time players are considered.”
However, we Cubans were once unfairly awarded a Gold Glove, when Rafael Palmeiro was selected for the prize with only 28 games played at first base, which happened before the revision on the selection method was made.
This coming season–whose start date we don’t know for sure yet–El Bombi might play full time in right field, as his offensive numbers (80 runs, 31 homeruns, 91 RBI and 16 steals) and his already impressive defense despite the short time he played there make him a no-brainer for manager Chris Woodward.