After 2019, everything was looking up for Gleyber Torres. He surprisingly clubbed 38 home runs on the way to a .358 wOBA and 124 wRC+. While we may not have expected him to repeat that power output, we definitely expected him to do a little more than he did in 2020.
His total production wasn’t bad (106 wRC+) and he improved his walk rate substantially (13.6%), but his power dropped significantly (3 HR, .125 ISO). He did show last year that he can be an average hitter without power, but I think we all want to see him SLG at least .400, right? Power is an obvious area for improvement for Torres, but it’s ground well covered. Both Derek and I examined this last summer. Instead, let’s take a look at the other side of the ball, where Torres’ potential improvement could be even bigger for the Yankees if he gets back to a higher level of power.
In 2020, per Statcast, Torres compiled -2 OAA, outs above average, at shortstop. All told, that’s not too bad. It’s something that the team could definitely live with. But who likes things in the negative? Besides, we’re talking about room for improvement and there is some room here, specifically room to Torres’ arm side.
When playing this straight up or going towards second base/his glove side, Torres is a plus defender: 1 OAA each. But when going towards third, things fall off quite a bit. And considering he has more than twice as many attempts that way as he does straight up and more than seven times as many towards the bag, that’s a big hole–pun very much intended–in his game. To figure out how to fill this hole, we’ve gotta figure out how it was made. My first thought was positioning. Maybe Gleyber is too close to the bag and it’s hurting his ability to go right.
According to that image, yeah, Torres looks pretty close to second. Maybe we’re on to something here. This gets borne out even more when we take a look at where he fielded balls and how his OAA measured up.
The illustration above is broken down by ending position: where Torres was when he fielded the ball. Take a look at that big blue box in the SS/3B hole: not great! Compare that to the red boxes closer to second and maybe we’re right; Torres might need to position himself closer to third than second to get to those balls in the hole. But then a funny thing happened on the way to drawing this conclusion.
This illustration shows where Torres was at the start of the play and, again, we see a blue box closer to 3B. Even when starting off closer to third, he’s still in the blue on plays towards third. This could come down to improving his agility and just being in better shape, the latter of which was in question upon his arrival at Sumer Camp in 2020.
To his credit, Gleyber knows he played relatively poorly at short in 2020 and needs to do better:
“Overall it was not a really good year to me for a lot of things,” Torres said. “This year I prepare myself like I did in the offseason, I take many ground balls and just try to be confident in myself. To play defense better at that position, I do a little adjustment, little things like help me to get in position. I am just focused on getting better.
“I am focusing in the comments or people talk about my defense and just try to to get confidence in myself and try to help my team,” he continued.
Carlos Mendoza also recognized that Torres is in better shape now:
“He’s in really good shape. He worked really hard during the offseason and you can see it in the way he’s moving right now on his work on the backfield,” Mendoza said. “I go back to last year towards the end, when he developed a really good routine and his preparation. He’s just carrying it over, like, the attention to details and just being excellent.
By re-signing DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees showed their complete commitment to Gleyber Torres as a shortstop. Now, he needs to get better there. The evidence is there that Torres recognized the problem and is doing the work to fix it. Maybe with the better conditioning and improved preparation, those blue boxes will move into the red this year.