The Best Defensive Plays of the 2015 MLB Season

With the 2015 MLB season winding down, there’s no better time to reflect on a spectacular year of professional baseball.   Without further ado, we proudly present to you: The best defensive plays of the 2015 MLB season.

Honorable Mentions

With 162 games on the ledger, it’s impossible to merely select 10 mind-blowing moments as the top plays of the year.  So here are three plays that barely missed the cut as the best plays of 2015:

Chase Utley Cranks, Supermans Votto

Soulja Boy references aside, Chase Utley will be fondly remembered in Philadelphia as one of the best infielders in franchise history.  Hopefully this lasting image will be enough to rinse Phillies fans’ palettes after a disappointing 2015 campaign.

Jake Marisnick Scales Tal’s Hill to Rob LoMo

Unfortunately, the Astros are leveling Tal’s Hill at the end of the season, so we’re not going to see any catches like this anymore.  This one by Jake Marisnick was special.

Colin McHugh’s face says it all:

Colin McHugh

Jose Abreu Fumbles and Flips to Chris Sale

We had to deduct points because Abreu probably should’ve made the play without any trouble, but this turned out to be one of the top web gems of 2015.  Also, great job by Sale for not giving up on the play.

TOP 10

10) Alex Gordon Catches Ball, White Sox Fan

One skill that kept Alex Gordon in the Majors during his first few middling years was his ability to flash the leather.  Gordon has won four straight Gold Gloves, and likely would’ve won five if not for his prolonged stint on the disabled list this summer.  Coming in at No. 10, Gordon gives up his body for the ball to make this fantastic grab in late April.  According to MLB’s Statcast, Gordon covered nearly 90 feet to dive into the left field seats to make the grab.   It is no doubt of one of the best plays of the year.

9) Anthony Rizzo Tiptoes on Tarp

Led by first baseman and MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs, after a prolonged stretch in the dregs of the National League, are finally back playing elite baseball in 2015.  And catches like this are what make the Northsiders such a fun team to watch every night.  On this great grab, Rizzo is somehow able to keep his balance on the cylindrical tarp surface, all while keeping his focus long enough to haul in the foul ball.

Although the catch was initially called off by umpires on the field, the play was overturned after a video replay (thanks to Rule 5.09(a)(1), for those playing at home).

8) Nolan Arenado Faceplants Into Tarp, Holds Onto Ball Anyway

More tarps!  It’s a shame that the Colorado Rockies have been such a hapless team this year, because Nolan Arenado has been one of the National League’s best players, both at the plate and in the field, all season long.  On this play, Arenado runs for what seems like an eternity before making an impossible over-the-shoulder catch.  He then crashes into the tarp with enough velocity to send his legs completely over his head.  The 24-year-old third baseman did this to his body after making the catch…



….and was somehow able contort his body back toward the field of play to make a throw to third base that nearly picked off the runner tagging.  If you wanted to call this the web gem of the year, I wouldn’t stop you.

The best part of this play is Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco’s reaction—Blanco hits the ball and steps out of the box, thinking it’s a simple foul ball, only to have his soul snatched by the unrelenting Arenado.

7) Bartolo Colon Breaks Time-Space Continuum

The embedded video is great, but we implore you to check out the Marlins feed on the MLB website here.

Are you there? Great.  All you have to do is fast forward to 1:10 in the video to hear two men, who are paid professionally to elucidate what is happening on the baseball diamond in a descriptive and colorful manner, simultaneously lose all innate and learned ability to make sentences.  If that doesn’t validate this play as one of the season’s best, I don’t know what will.

Never retire, Tolo.

Power to the Players–The 2016 DeMarini baseball bat lineup is available now!

6) Nationals Record Insane 3-4-1 Putout

We promise that we’re not picking on the Giants with this list, but we’d be remiss if we forgot about this great, unique play the Nationals pulled in August.  Giants all-star shortstop Brandon Crawford ripped a shot to first, where Clint Robinson deflected the grounder off the side piece of his mitt.  This should have been an easy base hit for Crawford; however, second baseman Anthony Rendon, who was already shaded toward the line, was able to snag the ball out of midair with his bare hand.  Rookie relief pitcher Felipe Rivero showed instinctive presence of mind, hustling over to cover the bag while Robinson was rendered too far to get to first.  Rendon, falling toward the first base line, made a difficult throw across his body to the dugout side of the first base, well before Rivero could arrive at the bag:

natties 1

In one of the most athletic plays you’ll ever see by a pitcher, Rivero was able to dive, stretch, catch the ball and hold the bag for the putout:

natties 2

There are an innumerable amount of variables that would’ve allowed Crawford to reach base with no problem:

-If Robinson doesn’t get a mitt on the ball, Crawford reaches safely.

-If Rendon misplays the barehanded catch, or if he hesitates making the throw, Crawford reaches safely.

-If Rivero doesn’t react right away and run to first, Rendon’s throw flies into foul territory, and Crawford reaches safely.

-If Rivero is a right-handed pitcher, it’s unlikely he’s able to reach across the bag and make the play, and Crawford reaches safely.

Instead, the Nationals pull off the amazing 3-4-1 putout, to Crawford’s disbelief.  Everything that could’ve gone wrong has gone wrong in the nation’s capital this season, but in this particular instance, it looks like at least one thing went right for the Nats.

5) Andrelton Simmons Shatters Sound Barrier With Throw, Nabs Travis d’Arnaud

It’s a fairly simple formula at this point: As long as Andrelton Simmons stays healthy in a particular year, he’s going to win a Gold Glove at shortstop.  In another year chock full of sick Simmons plays, this jump throw in the hole from early April set the tone for the rest of the season.  We’re still not sure how Simmons got the throw there without the need for a pick by Freddie Freeman.  Also, Travis d’Arnaud should probably reconsider hitting the ball at Simmons.

4) Kevin Kiermaier Takes Manny Machado’s Lunch Money, Buys Grandma’s Cookies and Doesn’t Give Him Any Crumbs

And even after lauding Simmons, he still doesn’t rate as baseball’s best defensive player this year.  That honor goes to Kevin Kiermaier (according to Fangraphs, but any metric or eye-test will tell you the same).

In a play that’s eerily similar to Mike Trout’s “I’m here to stay” moment three summers ago, Kiermaier gets way up to snatch a home run from the O’s Manny Machado for one of the best catches of the season.  Consider your dreams murked, Manny.

Seriously though, Kiermaier got WAY up.  His shoulder is over the wall!


Also, your thoughts, Chris Archer?


3) Josh Donaldson Stage Dives Into Fans

Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada wasn’t able to finish his bid for a perfect game in late June, but Josh Donaldson risked it all in the eighth inning to keep the dream alive.  Donaldson, who will likely win the American League MVP this season, ran 80 feet to the wall and timed his leap perfectly, diving into the second row to record the out.

Playoff baseball is finally returning to Canada after an extended hiatus, so hopefully we’ll see some of Donaldson’s best web gems in October.  This specific play, however, was one of the greatest catches of all-time.

2) Juan Perez Makes Cheeky Basket Catch, Welcomes Stephen Piscotty to the Bigs

This catch can be described with one word: rude.  We don’t think we’ve ever seen a basket catch take away a home run, and it’s doubtful it happens again anytime soon.  It was one of the best catches of the year.

1) Kevin Pillar Loves Parkour, Scales 10-Foot Wall

Was there any doubt?  Pillar might be 2015’s web gem king (see here and here and here for a few examples from Pillar’s splendid catalog) but this one from April certainly takes the cake.  The first time I saw this catch I thought I was watching an MLB 15: THE SHOW glitch, because it doesn’t look like something a mortal man can accomplish.  Watch as Pillar stutters his steps to prepare for his Peter Parker impression; you don’t make a catch like that without impeccable timing.  Pillar’s robbery came on Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, and it was quite the harbinger of great things to come for the Blue Jays in 2015.

Jays shortstop Stephen Tolleson may have had the best reaction:

pillar gif

And that concludes our Top 10 MLB Defensive Plays of the Year.  What did you think of the list?  Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

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