Gimme some glove! Forecasting MLB's best, worst fielders

Kevin Kiermaier is so good in the outfield, he might merit unretiring the 19th century baseball nickname "Death to Flying Things." Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Defense has been making news even earlier than usual this spring thanks to the World Baseball Classic. Most notably, Adam Jones' incredible home run robbery of Orioles teammate Manny Machado helped Team USA defeat the Dominican Republic and advance to the WBC semifinals. Then, in the Americans' next game against undefeated Japan, a normally stout Japanese infield made two miscues that helped the U.S. reach the championship game. While hitting and pitching were the story of the day in Team USA's dominant 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the final, the path to the Americans' first WBC championship was made possible by some big plays on defense.

Now that the WBC is behind us, we can turn our attention to the start of the MLB season. Thanks to a wave of incredible young talent, this season will undoubtedly feature its own set of highlight-reel defensive plays. At Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), we prepare defensive projections for players based on their recent trends in defensive metrics and our expectations for their playing time in 2017. Which players are poised to help their teams the most with their glove work this season, and which players could be big liabilities?

First, the projected leaders:

CF Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
Projected DRS: 26

Kiermaier set the record for most defensive runs saved (DRS) in a season -- which BIS has calculated going back to 2003 -- when he saved the Rays 42 runs in 2015. Last season, Kiermaier missed almost two months in the middle of the season after breaking a couple of bones in his left hand, but that didn't stop him from again pacing all center fielders with 25 runs saved.

As is probably unsurprising for the best defensive player in baseball, Kiermaier is exceptional in all areas of outfield defense. Among center fielders in 2016, Kiermaier trailed only Kevin Pillar in our range metric, trailed only Billy Hamilton and Pillar in good fielding plays, and tied Leonys Martin for the lowest percentage of extra bases taken by opposing baserunners at 41.8 percent. With a healthy season in 2017, BIS projects Kiermaier to lead all players in DRS.