Who should be the starter at second base for the Yankees in 2023?

gleyber torres, new york yankees
Aug 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) throws the ball to first base for an out during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have somewhat of an interesting scenario pertaining to the second base position in 2023. It’s a very similar scenario as last year, just with some new additions into the fold. As we continue to wait for this baseball hiatus to conclude, we have to speculate on what Aaron Boone and the Yankees will run out with this next season.

Gleyber Torres shifted back to second after an abysmal 2021 and saw massive improvements. While DJ LeMahieu has transformed into a super-utility guy for the squad, his primary position is also at second base. And with the three young guys, including Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Volpe, there are a plethora of options for the Yankees to explore.

Let’s dive into the three different options that the organization has in front of them at the position. More likely than not, we will see all three of these scenarios pan out over the next calendar year.

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Three options the Yankees can walk out at second base:

Gleyber Torres

The 26-year-old Torres enjoyed an incredible bounce-back season after a rough 2022. Gleyber posted a 115 wRC+ in 140 games while mashing 24 homers and driving in 76 runs. The stigma surrounding the infielder was that his poor defense last season at shortstop severely affected his ability to hit. And while Gleyber’s bat returned to true form, he posted his best season as a defender to date.

Torres posted career highs in OAA (0), DRS (9), UZR (4.1), and UZR/150 (4.1). His DRS total for the season was the third-highest mark among American League second baseman, trailing Marcus Semien and Andres Gimenez. Gleyber became an elite defender seemingly overnight and had one of the best bats in the Yankee lineup. Torres fully deserved an All-Star nod in 2022 and became a vital part of this team once again.

Rumors have swirled over the past two seasons about a move away from the Bronx. If the Yankees decide to use him as a trade chip in a big-name deal, it would be worth it after his stellar season last year. But it has reached a point where the Yankees cannot afford to lose a bat like Gleyber’s. The offense severely needs support, and dealing one of your most consistent bats away has turned into a poor idea.

The most likely scenario that we will see with Torres in 2023 will be to have him retain the second base position. With DJ LeMahieu’s health status always up in the air, it’s become difficult to pencil him in as the starter as the organization did in 2021. Gleyber will most likely continue to be the guy moving forward, as he has fully earned that position.

DJ LeMahieu

LeMahieu’s case for the second base position in this Yankees lineup comes down to two factors. His health and his flexibility to play all across the diamond. The super-utility infielder was limited to just 125 games in 2022 due to a lingering toe injury that saw him miss most of the back end of the year. But DJ’s tools, coupled with his insane range, are a huge plus to this Yankees team.

Similar to Torres, LeMahieu bounced back last season from a rough 2021 to his standards. DJ posted his highest fWAR total since 2019 with a 3 WAR season, playing between first, second, and third base. He set a career-high in walk rate at 12.4% and held the second-highest on-base percentage on the team at .357, only behind Aaron Judge. LeMahieu mashed two more home runs than he did in 2021, despite playing 25 less games. He was a consistent on-base machine at the top of a Yankees order that desperately needed it.

DJ’s defensive flexibility will most likely put him out of the running for the second base spot. With the status of Josh Donaldson’s future with the team still up in the air, it makes the most sense for LeMahieu to slot in at third base for the veteran. The Yankees will most likely attempt to offload Donaldson’s brutal contract in the coming weeks. If they are able to do that, DJ should slot into his former position.

The one positive we can find in Josh Donaldson’s pitiful 2022 campaign was his defensive metrics. The veteran posted a DRS total of 7, tied for the second-highest mark in the AL. The player he’s tied with? It’s LeMahieu, who played 600 less innings at the position. If DJ LeMahieu played the entire season at the hot corner, there’s a high chance he would’ve been the best defensive third baseman in the sport.

Coupled with his incredible offensive output, he is a valuable member of that organization. While the player might not begin the year at second base, he will still, without a doubt, have a spot in this lineup.

The Kids (Peraza, Cabrera, Volpe)

The trio of Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Volpe all have a significant chance to have time at second base during the 2023 season. Both Peraza and Cabrera were contributors for the Yankees down the stretch and in the playoffs, and Volpe, the Yankees’ top prospect, could make his debut this calendar year.

Cabrera clocked three games at second in 2022, as he seemed to take on the super-utility void DJ LeMahieu left during his injury-riddled back half. Oswaldo played innings all across the field, including first, second, and third base, shortstop, left field, and right field. In the wake of Andrew Benintendi’s hamate injury, Cabrera became the full-time left fielder in his absence and he impressed.

He posted a 111 wRC+ in 44 games and stacked up a whopping 9 DRS in just under 300 innings as an outfielder. Without a left fielder on the roster, the expectation now is that he will fill the gap. So, in turn, that will take him out of the running for the starting second baseman job.

Oswald Peraza only played 19 games in the bigs last season, but he stepped up in a big way defensively. Yankee fans screamed out for Isiah Kiner-Falefa to be removed from the shortstop position because of his poor defense, and Peraza filled the gap perfectly. He showed flashes of wizardry with the glove, including a sweet play in Game 2 of the ALCS to rob Jose Altuve of a hit.

Peraza also hit well in the regular season. He posted a 146 wRC+ in his 57 plate appearances and mashed his first big league home run in the final regular season game of the year against the Rangers. He’s seen as a plus run, plus glove player with some untapped power potential. Presumably, Peraza will take over the shortstop role in 2023 with the way he performed down the stretch. He could clock some minutes at second, but it’s unlikely, barring a Torres trade.

Anthony Volpe is another player who will most likely play more minutes at shortstop as compared to second, but he’s still worth noting in this section. Volpe is the Yankees’ top-rated prospect, and the organization has passed on the opportunity to sign a total of eight big-name free agents that would occupy his position. He’s their golden boy.

The shortstop played in both AA and AAA this past season. He posted a 122 and 91 wRC+, respectively, clobbering 21 home runs and driving in 86 runs at both levels combined. Apparently, the opportunity is there for him to win the starting shortstop role, so it’s unlikely that he will see many innings at second base.

The chance for all five of these players to play their ball at second this year is there for the taking. The most likely outcome would see Torres there, with LeMahieu at third, Cabrera in left, and Volpe/Peraza battling it out for the shortstop spot. We have yet to see what the team’s decision will be, but this will likely be the final outcome.