CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has completed his evolution from reliable backup to injury replacement to elite backstop and Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner.
On Tuesday, Barnhart beat out veterans Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and Buster Posey of the Giants to win the National League Gold Glove at catcher. Posey won the award in 2016, while Molina won eight straight years before that.
Barnhart, 26, is the first Reds catcher to win a Gold Glove since Hall of Famer Johnny Bench in 1977. He's just the third Reds backstop to win the award -- Johnny Edwards was a two-time winner in 1963-64 and Bench was a 10-time winner from 1968-77.
"It means everything to me," Barnhart said. "To be able to share something that [Bench] has, with everything he brought to the city of Cincinnati as far as baseball is concerned and other things, it's just extremely special. I'm just really happy that all of the hard work that I put in with [coach] Mike Stefanski and everybody with the Reds, for all of that to be noticed, it means a ton."
So proud of Tucker Barnhart for being honored, bringing the Gold back to the @reds catching position. So deserving. @mlb#goldglove
In his fourth big league season, Barnhart led the NL by throwing out 44 percent of runners attempting to steal and posting a pop time of 2.01 seconds throwing to second base, according to Statcast™. Working with a young pitching staff, Barnhart also led the NL with 661 blocked pitches.
Barnhart committed one error in 926 1/3 innings caught. Among 34 catchers who caught at least 600 innings, he was the only one with less than two errors.
Barnhart's 2.8 Defensive Wins Above Replacement led all NL players, and according to Fangraphs, his 21 Defensive Runs Saved was fourth best in the Majors. But one of his favorite accomplishments from the season is not defined statistically.
"As far as helping young guys and commanding young guys through the game, that was the thing I was happy with the most," Barnhart said.
A 10th-round pick by the Reds in the 2009 Draft, Barnhart made a steady rise through the organization. He established himself in the Majors after former All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco was limited to 95 games from 2015-17 because of numerous injuries.
Offensively, Barnhart also had a career year, batting .270/.347/.403 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 121 games. On Sept. 22, he signed a four-year, $16 million contract with a fifth-year club option worth $7.5 millon. The total deal could reach $24 million with escalators and performance bonuses.
"I've grown up as a guy that really focused, because I truly thought that the reason I would get to the Major Leagues and stay in the Major Leagues was my defense," Barnhart said.
Three of Barnhart's teammates were Gold Glove finalists, but none of the trio won. It was the fourth straight year that center fielder Billy Hamilton missed out, as Atlanta's Ender Inciarte has taken the Gold Glove award each of the past two years. Left fielder Adam Duvall was a finalist for the second straight year, but lost to Miami's Marcell Ozuna. First baseman Joey Votto, a 2011 NL Gold Glove winner, lost to Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.
Gold Glove Award voting performed by managers and coaches accounted for 75 percent of the total. The other 25 percent came from Sabermetric data outcomes.
"It's something that I hope this isn't my only one," Barnhart said. "Hopefully, I can give them a run for their money each year. That's my goal, and I think it should be anybody's goal. I'm going to get to work here this offseason and start the trek for No. 2."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.