After a down season in 2021, Gleyber Torres has played like a potential All-Star, and the Yankees thought well enough of him to list him on their ballot at second base, pushing DJ LeMahieu to third and Josh Donaldson to DH with Giancarlo Stanton freed up in the outfield. However, the second base competition for an All-Star vote in the American League is particularly fierce.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Torres to make it to the All-Star Game, and that’s not even delving deeply into the fact that the reserves could include more versatile, higher-WAR players like LeMahieu or the Twins’ Luis Arraez. Fortunately for Torres, he does not have to face them in the public vote. With all that being said, I will only examine players placed on the All-Star ballot for the second base position in the American League. All statistics are active as of the beginning of play on Friday.
Torres has excellent offensive numbers this year, more in line with his previous All-Star seasons of 2018-19. He has a triple slash line of .249/.297/.487 with a .784 OPS (123 OPS+). However, the underlying metrics indicate that Torres might be hitting into a little bit of bad luck. With an xBA of .283, xSLG of .575, and xwOBA of .377, all figures indicate that Torres has been behaving like a proper hitter. As a result, Torres has a fairly good WAR of 0.8.
Working against Torres is the fact that while his defense is better than it was during his brutal tenure at shortstop, his glove is still letting him down. He has negative Outs Above Average (OAA), and sits squarely in the 18th percentile in that metric. That is not great, to say the least.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Jose Altuve has performed very well for the Houston Astros. He went into his weekend series against the White Sox today with 52 hits and 18 walks with 12 home runs in 190 at-bats. This results in a superb triple slash line of .274/.346/.521 and an OPS of .867 that translates to an impressive 148 OPS+ that leads all second baseman (not just American Leaguers).
Baseball Savant mostly supports Altuve’s performance, too. The seven-time All-Star has an xBA of .278 with an xwOBA of .368 and xSLG of .476. Those numbers line up with Altuve’s performance, though he might be running into a couple more dingers than normal based on the somewhat inflated slugging percentage. Where Altuve somewhat falls down is in his defense, with an OAA in the 41st percentile, thus putting his WAR at 1.8.
Santiago Espinal of the Toronto Blue Jays has provided quite a bit of value at the keystone. In 149 at-bats, he has 64 hits with 18 walks and 5 home runs, good for a triple slash line of .292/344/.443 and an OPS of .787 (124 OPS+). Those add up to a very good offensive year for the second baseman.
Espinal’s performance is no fluke, either; his xBA of .299, xSLG of .288, and xwOBA of .320 are fairly in line with his performance. In addition, the 27-year-old has excellent defense, rating in the 98th percentile in outs above average. Thanks to this combination of smooth glovework and good offense, Espinal has produced 2.0 WAR.
Former Mets prospect Andrés Giménez has truly found a home in Cleveland since coming over in the pre-2021 Francisco Lindor trade. He’s played terrific ball for the Guardians, with offensive numbers in the top of the league. In 161 at-bats, Giménez has 49 hits to go along with just 9 walks and 7 home runs — a triple slash line of .304/.347/.516 and an OPS of .863. In fact, his 145 OPS+ trails only Altuve among all second baseman.
Giménez has outstanding offensive numbers, and like with these other contenders, Baseball Savant backs up his on-field performance. He has an xBA of .301 with an xwOBA of .367 and an xSLG of .529. Those numbers are right in line — even a little higher. As a result, FanGraphs has pegged at 2.1 WAR through the beginning of the season. This tops all of the other listed second basemen.
In addition, Giménez has offered excellent defense at multiple positions. He rates in the 98th percentile in outs above average. Overall, Giménez is having a truly awesome year at second base.
I really like Torres, but he probably rates below the top tier of second baseman on the AL All-Star Ballot. Altuve, Espinal, and Giménez have each matched or exceeded Torres’ offensive numbers. Furthermore, Torres’ lackluster defensive numbers really hamper his value. With defensive numbers in the bottom 20 percent of the league, it is hard to justify voting for Torres without exceptional offensive numbers, and as of now, they don’t measure up to Altuve or Giménez in particular.
Frankly, Torres’ offensive numbers have been great, but not enough to get past the terrible defense. So while each of the three other second basemen mentioned here could make a fine All-Star starter, Gleyber will need to bring more thunder over the next month to improve his case to make it to a third Midsummer Classic.