New York Yankees: If Gleyber Torres can’t handle shortstop in 2020, what should the Yankees do?

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres
Jul 26, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) throws to first base against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Can the New York Yankees trust Gleyber Torres at shortstop, or should they be optimistically cautious?

There is a genuine possibility that Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres can’t handle the shortstop position moving forward. It was always anticipated that Torres would take over at the spot after Didi Gregorius left in free agency, but his defensive struggles during spring training did not help his stock at the position.

It has always been a waiting game for Torres and shortstop, as he played there as a young prospect but was moved to second base, where he saw an uptick in defensive efficiency. In 2019, Torres played 77 total games at shortstop, earning a .961 fielding percentage with 11 errors. At second base, he played in 65 games, posting a .967 feeling percentage and nine errors. While he was a bit more efficient at second, his defensive abilities are still problematic and require improvement.

Having allowed five errors in Grapefruit League play this spring, optimism around his potential has dampened a bit. There is a chance that the Yankees might have to make a move to supplement his deficiencies, but they are still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and more reps to prove his worth.

However, in a recent article posted by Empire sports media, Torres’ struggles seem to be very specific. When playing in a traditional shortstop roll, Gleyber is more effective, but when he’s leaning a certain way or playing in a special shift, his numbers tend to lean in a negative direction. Here is the exact quote, via Ryan Garcia of ESM.

With Torres’ starting position at SS, he has more success when he’s not playing a special shift, if he’s starting at a traditional SS position he has lots of success, with a positive OAA playing straight up. It’s when he’s shading to 3rd or playing towards 2B that he has negative OAA numbers. This is supported by his grades based on the ending position. When he’s drastically in or the play takes him far from 1st and leaning to third he has a whopping -4.1 OAA.  He has a hot stripe near the traditional SS position, and it shows that his flaw is a fixable issue: making plays closer to the 3rd.

Overall, I believe the Yankees and manager Aaron Boone will give him the 2020 season to iron out his negative traits at shortstop, but if he cannot solve some of the fixable problems remaining, they will have to make a move in 2021.

It is possible a suspected free agent in 2021 like Oakland star Marcus Semien could be an option for the Yankees next offseason. At just 30 years old, he saw his defensive abilities skyrocket and posted a .892 on-base percentage in 2019. If he can back those numbers up with another quality campaign, there’s no question the Yankees could consider him in free agency.