CLEVELAND -- Yan Gomes opened this past season in Triple-A, hoping an opportunity might arise for him to earn the backup catching job with the Indians. By the end of the year, Gomes had not only reached the big leagues, but worked his way into the starting role during Cleveland's run to the postseason.
"We caught a big break with Yan Gomes," Indians manager Terry Francona said at the end of the season. "Yan turned into a force in the league. Nobody knew. We can't sit here and say we saw that coming. We hoped that he would be a serviceable catcher, and he turned into a force."
On Thursday night, Gomes was rewarded for his hard work as the Indians' recipient of the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award. Each Major League team had one winner, while Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and D-backs outfielder Gerardo Parra took home the top honors in their respective leagues.
The Royals and Orioles were named co-winners of the Wilson AL Defensive Team of the Year Award and the D-backs received the top team honor for the NL.
Founded in 2012, the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards are determined through scouting information, sabermetric analysis and basic fielding stats.
The GIBBY trophy for Defensive Player of the Year will be awarded as part of the 2013 Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards, which are based on voting by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni and the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as fan balloting on MLB.com.
Voting launched on Oct. 31 and will continue through Dec. 1. Fans will be able to cast their ballots at MLB.com for the year's top defensive star, with no individual league affiliation.
The Indians acquired Gomes, along with infielder Mike Aviles, from the Blue Jays on Nov. 3 last winter in exchange for right-hander Esmil Rogers. The 26-year-old Gomes -- the first Brazilian-born player to reach the Majors -- was promoted to Cleveland in April after backup Lou Marson landed on the disabled list.
In 88 games for the Indians, Gomes impressed with his bat, posting a .294/.345/.481 slash line to go along with 11 home runs, 31 extra-base hits and 38 RBIs. Behind the plate, though, the catcher impressed with his arm and game-calling, and began garnering more and more playing time as the season progressed.
In the second half, as the Indians fought their way to the AL's top Wild Card spot, Gomes earned most of the playing time behind the plate. Carlos Santana, who has been Cleveland's starting catcher for the past three seasons, spent more time as a designated hitter and first baseman over the final two months.
"One of the things we've come to really appreciate first-hand is [Gomes'] work ethic," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said in September. "Defensively, he's been among the best defensive catchers in the American League when he's been given opportunities behind the plate, not only in his ability to control the running game, but the way he manages and leads a staff."
Among AL catchers with at least 700 innings behind the plate, Gomes ranked first with a 40.8 (20-for-49) caught-stealing percentage, according to baseball reference. Cleveland's pitching staff posted a 3.56 ERA in the 710 innings he caught, and he ended the season with just three errors and a .996 fielding percentage.
According to Fangraphs.com's Defense metric, Gomes (11.9) was tied with Chris Stewart as the third-best defensive catcher in the AL, among those with at least 700 innings. Only Kansas City's Salvador Perez (16.1) and Baltimore's Matt Wieters (15.4) had a better rating.
"I was coming in here ready to impress some guys and show them I can play," Gomes said in September about being traded to Cleveland. "That was pretty much my game plan coming in."