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Defensive Players of the Month: Alcides Escobar, Addison Russell shine

Addison Russell and Alcides Escobar both had great months at shortstop. USA Today Sports

The defensive numbers have surprisingly not been kind to Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, who is prolific when it comes to Web Gem highlight-reel plays but doesn't rate well via advanced metrics because of the balls he doesn't get to.

In contrast, the numbers have been there for Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell from day one, whether at short or second base. He might not be as flashy as Escobar, though he was on Wednesday with this play. But Russell is consistent and covers a wide swath in the middle infield.

The two share our honor as the Defensive Players of the Month for August.

Escobar led all players with nine defensive runs saved for the month, bumping his season total from minus-10 to minus-1, the same total he finished with last season. He last had a positive runs saved total in 2013, when he had four. His best season was in 2011, when he had 10 in his first year with the Royals.

But we're not here to talk about Escobar's shortcomings. We're here to praise his strengths, like the 70 Web Gems he totaled when we tracked them daily from 2009 to 2015, the most in the majors. He had the No. 1 gem 19 times.

An expert like Baseball Tonight analyst (and former infielder) Alex Cora can appreciate the types of plays Escobar makes.

"Although sometimes he gets in trouble by going too fast, his hand-eye coordination helps him get out of those tough spots and make the difficult plays," Cora said.

Russell was two runs behind Escobar in August, with seven. His 17 for the season are tied with Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford for most at the position. Russell's 36 runs saved over the past two seasons rank third-best among infielders, trailing only Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (39) and Crawford (37). This season, Russell is eight plays above average on balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole, five plays above average on balls hit up the middle, and eight plays above average on everything else. Over the past eight years, Crawford is the only shortstop to be plus-5 or better in all three of those areas in a single season (2015).

"The thing that impresses me the most about [Russell] is that although he's a very athletic guy, he plays under control," Cora said. "You don't see too many off-balance throws, and it seems like he always makes the right decision defensively."

Russell and Escobar join Adam Eaton (April), Crawford (May), Derek Norris (June) and Mookie Betts (July) as winners of the award this season. We wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these players win again in the future.