When the Yankees signed DJ LeMahieu before the 2021 season and passed on trading for/extending Francisco Lindor, the Yankees were making a statement: “Gleyber Torres is our shortstop.” Despite a relatively disappointing 2020, the Bombers banked on 2018 and 2019 and went full steam ahead with Gleyber. It did not go as planned.
All told, Torres hit .259/.331/.366, ‘good’ for a .307 wOBA/94 wRC+. This came with a drop in walk rate (about 4%), a rise in strikeout rate (about 3%), and a career low ISO (.107).
A main culprit in Torres’ second down year in a row? Underperformance against fastballs. While his xBA/xSLG/xWOBA on number one were respectable–.235/.449/.335 respectively–the actual numbers were, uh, bad: .196/.322/.282. In terms of raw run value, Torres was -15 on fastballs in 2021, -2.2 per 100 fastballs; he had a similar mark in 2020 (-2.1). We can wave away some of the pandemic season, but to see that trend continue is disheartening and we’ll have to hope Torres doesn’t have Greg Bird Disease and forgot how to hit a fastball.
But the most damning thing about this season for Torres isn’t the unspectacular performance at the plate. It’s the fact that he ended the year as a second baseman instead of a shortstop. Here’s a look at his defensive numbers:
A note on that -9 Outs Above Average mark: it’s in the 1st percentile among Major Leaguers. Excuse my hyperbole, but that’s where you and I would rank if we played shortstop at the Major League level. There isn’t too much to say here except that his defense became unacceptable at the position and the Yankees moved him off with good reason.
To add injury to insult, Torres missed time in the spring with COVID and in the summer with a thumb sprain. Just before the latter–first missed game was August 9th–it looked like Torres was turning a corner, hitting hot for the beginning of the month. He did manage to end the year–he returned September 3rd–on what constituted a hot streak for him, hitting .280/.339/.420 for the final month of the season. While it’s a far cry from his breakout years in 2018-19, it’s tempting to say that we’d take that from him in 2022.
Few players come into a season with the type of expectations Gleyber Torres had going into 2021. Unfortunately for him and for the Yankees, he not only didn’t live up to those expectations; he fell well short. Hopefully he bounces back in 2022 and lives up to the commitment the Yankees made to him in some way.