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Gleyber Torres’ second-base defense has taken a dip

The numbers and the eye test both say that Gleyber’s glove has become a problem for the Yankees.

MLB: New York Yankees at New York Mets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have a relative abundance of infielders, which is probably* why they aren’t able to accommodate Oswald Peraza into their short-term plans and why they have to rotate to keep everybody happy. Gleyber Torres is one piece of that puzzle, and overall sentiments regarding his performance were positive given that he hit 24 homers with a 115 wRC+ and 2.8 fWAR in 2022.

*In addition to their reluctance to part ways with Josh Donaldson just yet.

Torres did it while playing very good defense at second base, which was supposed to be his new long-term home after a horrible 2021 at shortstop. In 2022, Gleyber had an impressive nine Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 1,082.2 innings at the keystone, and at least an acceptable zero Outs Above Average (OAA). He looked much better than anticipated at second last year, a stark contrast to what he did at the other side of the base for much of his career.

This year, however, Gleyber has regressed with the glove. With the bat, he seems to have settled as a 110-120 wRC+ type of hitter, but his defense has taken a major step back.

For starters, Torres is last in Baseball Prospectus’ Deserved Runs Prevented (DRP) among second baseman, at -2.3.

Since this stat may be unfamiliar to some, here the definition of DRP, from BP itself:

“DRP collects and sums the various ways that a defender can impact a play. This equation is generally dominated by the player’s range (RDA, or Range Defense Added), outfield assists (OFA), the rate at which defenders prevent baserunners from advancing (BRR_ARM), and the collected contributions of catcher defense (CDA, or Catcher Defense Added).”

This development is particularly worrisome because the next-worst defensive second baseman after Gleyber, Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies, is at -1.5. Here is the “leaderboard,” sorted by worst DRP:

Baseball Prospectus

Torres has been beyond bad, according to BP. The more conventional fielding metrics support that thesis, as he has a -2 DRS and a -2 OAA this year after the aforementioned 9 and 0 marks last year, respectively. This seems to go beyond him disconnecting from time to time like it happened recently against Boston, when the mental miscue shown in the video a little ways above dramatically decreased the Yankees’ win probability. This seems like a real problem.

It makes one think whether Gleyber’s good offense is worth his mediocre defense. This might seem like an overreaction by some, but it’s a legitimate question for one to make.

This particular play, for example, shows one of two things: a lack of fundamentals, or a lack of effort and focus by virtue of the big deficit. Frankly, it’s unclear which one is worse. Torres lacked the awareness to understand who the runner was (Triston Casas) and that he had ample time to set his feet and make a quality throw.

Torres is a quality player, but his defense has become a problem again and that’s not ideal. The Yankees have plenty of arms inducing a lot of groundballs and it would be fine if they had 2022 Torres at second base.

The general understanding around the league is that the Yankees may very well trade one of Torres or Peraza, although they could theoretically co-exist in an infield. If defense is factored in the decision—and it should—the difference between the two is considerable. The same happens with youth and service time.

The problem, for the Yankees, is that other teams don’t appear to value Torres or Peraza like they do; otherwise, one of them would probably have been traded by now. We will have to keep waiting for the pieces to fall in their respective places but for now, it’s fair to say that Torres’ defense has regressed and that might have teams all around the league worried—not just the Yanks.