Gleyber Torres, a 22-year-old second baseman and shortstop from Caracas, Venezuela, stunned the baseball universe in 2018 with his flashy personality and good-natured attitude. Torres slashed .271/.340/.480/.820 with a .349 wOBA and a 121 wRC+. His stat sheet also included 24 HR and 77 RBI in 484 plate appearances. He was also an All-Star, All-Rookie Team and Rookie of the Month in May.
In 2016, Torres played in Scottsdale, Arizona and Tampa, Florida, gaining exposure at a rapid pace and receiving numerous awards and honors. To name off a few, he was awarded All-Prospect Team, Most Valuable Player and Rising Stars. This trend continued in 2017, as Torres slashed .287/.383/.480/.863 in 235 plate appearances with Double-A Trenton Thunder and Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
In 2018, Torres continued to improve on his craft and inched ever so closer to the majors. With Single-A Tampa Tarpons and Triple-A Scranton, Torres slashed .345/.403/.500/.903 in 67 plate appearances. At this point in his minor league career, Torres was more than prepared for the majors and deserved to shine in the spotlight. On April 22, 2018, he made his debut vs the Toronto Blue Jays. Although Torres didn’t make an immediate impact, going 0 for 4, time itself would eventually get the last laugh.
Fast forward to Sep. 16, 2019. In 558 plate appearances, Torres is hitting .284/.344/.544/.889 with a .365 wOBA and a 129 wRC+. Among qualified second basemen and shortstops, Torres is leading the majors with a whopping 36 homers and has added 91 RBI to his collection. To make this achievement sound even more remarkable, Torres is only in the 47 percentile range for exit velocity and 34 percentile range for hard-hit %.
Torres is also outperforming his peripherals. For example, he is expected to finish the season with a .265 BA, .492 SLG, and a .350 wOBA, but possesses a .287 BA, .550 SLG and a .373 wOBA. His BA has increased by .022 points and his wOBA by .023 points. SLG is the important stat to note, as it has increased by .058, which is quite a drastic spike.
Torres is a scorching-hot tank and continues to produce offensively, but he is not at his full potential. It’s blatantly obvious that his baserunning and defensive abilities are below average at best. The question that continues circulating around social media? Why is Torres below average at baserunning and defense?
Let’s begin with his baserunning abilities. This season, Torres has obtained a -0.6 BsR, which includes stolen bases and times caught stealing. He has stolen 5 bases this season but has been caught stealing twice. Diving deeper into analytics, Torres has a -0.7 UBR, which doesn’t include stolen bases and times caught stealing, 0.2 wGDP and a -0.1 wSB. If your brain is already melting from the inside out, bear in mind that all of this information is important.
League averages are beneficial when attempting to value a player and his production. As discussed earlier, Torres has a -0.6 BsR. According to Fangraphs, 0.4 BsR is the league average. Still, need evidence? Torres has a -0.7 UBR and a -0.1 wSB. The league average? 0.4 UBR and a 0.0 wSB. While these stats aren’t atrocious by any means, Torres is without a doubt, below average at base running.
The video below shows some examples of why Torres is a below-average base runner. It’s extremely easy to remember the highlight reels, but difficult to remember each individual mistake a player commits in a season.
Now for his defensive abilities, which have been a major drawback this season. Among fielders with over 1000.0 innings played, Torres has committed 16 errors, which is well below average. Rafael Devers, Jean Segura, Jorge Polanco and Willy Adames are the only fielders with more errors in the league. Although an increasing amount of errors doesn’t equal productivity, it’s important to understand that errors, along with fielding percentage, are not the best tools to utilize when valuing defense. Fielding percentage will be discussed in greater detail in a moment.
Just as we did with base running, let’s examine advanced fielding stats. At second base, Torres has obtained a -4 DRS, .615 RZR, -2.1 UZR and a -8.1 UZR/150. At shortstop, Torres has obtained a 0 DRS, .748 RZR, -2.0 UZR and a -4.8 UZR/150. If we take a glimpse at the league averages, among qualified second basemen, -9 DRS, .733 RZR, 3.5 UZR, and a 0.1 UZR/150 are listed. Among qualified shortstops, 0 DRS, .750 RZR, 2.0 UZR, and a 0.1 UZR/150 are listed.
Just like base running, 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.
As far as fielding percentage is concerned, Torres has a .970 fielding percentage as a second baseman and a .967 fielding percentage as a shortstop this season. Fielding percentage is a subset of misplays. Measuring defense strictly on the basis of assists, putouts and errors ignore a significant chunk of defense. Just as I stated earlier, poor fielding percentage and errors are not qualified by any means, but should not be a common denominator when evaluating defense.
Just as I did for Torres’ base running, here is a video showcasing a few of many errors he has committed on the baseball diamond. Remember that the eye test can be deceiving and doesn’t paint the full picture of a story.
Do I believe that Torres can improve on his baserunning and defensive abilities? Of course, I do. He is only 22 years old and has an endless amount of connections disposed at his fingertips. He is an extraordinary player who is gifted and has the potential to be one of the greatest players of this generation. The only obstacle holding him back is his baserunning and fielding skills.
If you’re interested in learning more, here are some helpful links that will lead you in the right direction: