Highlighting New York Yankees SS Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres is one of the most personable Yankees, from his engaging smile and horseplay in the dugout, to his engaging desire to speak English to the media and fans.

Torres enjoyed a highly successful offensive campaign in ’19, putting up a .278 average with 38 home runs, 90 RBIs and a 3.1 WAR.  Torres’ accolades in ’19 are included in Wikipedia:

On August 22, Torres hit his 30th home run, thus becoming the second Yankee to hit 30 or more home runs in a single season at age of 22 or younger, joining Joe DiMaggio who hit 46 home runs in 1937. His 39 home runs made him the second ever middle infielder after Alex Rodriguez to do so before turning 23, and third Yankees player since DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle to hit at least two 20+ HR seasons before the age of 23.

Torres is surely carving his name in Monument Park in his first seasons with the Yankees given the company he keeps.

On defense, Torres’ success has been more uneven.  He came up as a shortstop with the Chicago Cubs, though once traded to the Yankees, who at the time already had Didi Gregorius at shortstop, he was moved over to second base to make room for his bat with the big club.

Based on advanced fielding stats provided via Fangraphs, Empire Sports Media writer, Dillard Barnhart wrote an of Torres’ defensive abilities:

Torres is below average in every category as a second baseman. As far as shortstops are concerned, he is average when DRS is mentioned, but every other stat across the board clarifies that he is below average. In general, Torres is a below-average fielder but is a much more sufficient shortstop than a second baseman.

What fans have experienced with Torres on defense, both at second and at shortstop, is some flashes of brilliance with the glove, but also some mental lapses which have resulted in errors or hits which should not have been.

In 2020, with the loss of Gregorius to free agency, Torres has taken over the shortstop position on an everyday basis.  In Spring Training 2020, says Mark Goodman of SI.com:

Gleyber Torres committed his fifth error of the spring on Tuesday, bobbling another ball that was ruled a hit.  With five errors in Grapefruit League play thus far – tied for the most in all of baseball – is the 23 year old ready for a full-time role at shortstop?”

The Yankees have moved DJ LeMahieu to his natural position, to take advantage of his multi-Gold Glove abilities at second base.  Torres will have a full season to take over the shortstop role and make it his own.

In 2019, Torres played 77 games at shortstop with a .961 FP and -1 DRS before Gregorius returned to play after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Torres played 65 games at second base with a .967 FP and -7 DRS.

Torres is just below average defensively.  However, there is no going back, Torres will have to make the adjustments defensively to raise his play at shortstop if he’s to complement LeMahieu up the middle.

The question Goodman asks, whether or not Torres is ready for the full-time shortstop role is, I hope, rhetorical, as the job belongs exclusively now to Torres for the first time in his career with the Yankees.  Goodman says that “taking over a position as essential as shortstop is a monumental task.”

There is plenty of truth to this statement, as the shortstop is the most pivotal player on the infield and needs to be a leader as well.  Think Derek Jeter and you see how far Torres has to reach to be great in pinstripes at shortstop.

There will be growing pains whenever a player transitions to another position and Yankee fans will have to be patient with Torres when baseball returns.  Fans can expect a steady, offensive consistency with power from the 23-year old Torres, and continuing improvement in the field.


Gleyber Torres: Didi Who?

There’s a case to be made that Torres has not only made fans forget about Gregorius but about Judge as well.

After five years of the Didi Gregorius regime at short stop, the New York Yankees moved on after the 2019 season.  Gleyber Torres has taken over the reins at shortstop this season – his natural position, as he played shortstop coming up the minors.

While Torres played a solid second base, he’s most likely glad to give up the spot to multi-Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who roved around the infield in a utility role in ’19.  With Torres and LeMahieu both in their natural positions, the Yankees up the middle defense should be that much better this season.

Gregorius ably filled the void left by the legend, Derek Jeter and his final line looked like: .269/.313/.446 with 97 HR, 360 RBI’s as a Yankee.  His defense was solid, but not spectacular; he had a .979 fielding percentage in his final season in pinstripes with a -10 DRS.  There were questions about Gregorius’s range.

Not to say 2019 was a typical season for Gregorius, it wasn’t, as he was coming off his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, but the signing of DJ LeMahieu and his overwhelming success both offensively and defensively in ’19 made Gregorius expendable, particularly since Torres was seen as ready to take over the shortstop position

Torres played 77 games at shortstop in ’19 with a .961 fielding percentage and -1 DRS, now while one would like to see the fielding percentage improve the -1 DRS is not bad, right around the league average.

It’s Torres’ bat that puts fans in seats at Yankee Stadium.  His offensive achievements at such a young age have catapulted him into the company of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.  According to Wikipedia:

On October 13, 2019, Torres became the youngest second baseman in MLB history, third youngest overall (Mantle, Tony Kubek“) to score 4+ RBI in a game, & youngest ever for 5+. He is on pace to amass the most ever extra base hits in a single postseason (8 by Cody Bellinger in 2017).

Gleyber hit .278/.337/.535 in ’19 with 38 home runs, 90 RBIs and had a 3.9 WAR.  His offensive campaign was exciting as Mike Vaccaro of the NY Post.com described:

He started spraying line drives all across the American League from the moment his plane landed on April 22, 2018, he fielded both middle infield positions with flair and reliability. Then he hit 38 home runs this year, and if you want to simply credit all of that to a baseball dripping juice it seems fair to point out that no other middle infielder in the whole sport hit as many.

Gleyber Torres, in short, has become the face of the Yankees – that is in the absence of Aaron Judge, who’s Judge’s Chambers will cheer without their namesake in right field, at least to begin the season.

There’s a case to be made that Torres has not only made the fans forget about Gregorius, but he’s making them forget about Judge as well.  Already on the spring, Torres is hitting .286 with 1 double, 1 home run and 4 RBIs.

Watch out for Torres to have an absolute break-out season in 2020, putting it all together with reliable, solid defense and offensive power and production.  Torres is the superstar the Yankees have been waiting for.