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Is Gleyber the shortstop moving forward?

This past year was a real struggle for Gleyber Torres in many different aspects. He didn’t stay healthy, only playing in 42 of 60 possible games, and dealt with injuries when the Yankees needed his bat most. Speaking of his bat, he failed to repeat the career year he had in 2019 by hitting only .243 and slugging below .400. His biggest failure, though, was on the defensive side of the diamond. He was tied for the second-most errors (9) at shortstop in all of baseball. His advanced metrics also took a step back. No matter how you slice it, Torres underperformed at the most important infield position in 2020. The question moving forward is whether he will improve. Brian Cashman recently said, “Gleyber is our shortstop moving forward.” If that’s the case, let’s look at whether he should play shortstop moving forward.

Position change

When he was coming up through the minors, Torres mostly played shortstop. When the Yankees swung the Chapman trade in 2016, they already had Didi Gregorius at short and didn’t have a reason to move him off that position, given his positive trend on offense and his stellar defensive prowess. Once he got into the Yankees minor league system, he started to play mostly second base. The Yankees knew that when Torres made his debut, it would have to be at the keystone position. That debut came in 2018 and Torres delivered – he made his first All-Star appearance and finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting that year. His defense was decent as well – he finished with 0.9 dWAR. It seemed that he was able to learn a new position and perform very well. Then in 2019, he had to move back to shortstop due to Gregorius’ injury. He played 75 games at shortstop before moving back to second base once Gregorius was healthy, and played 64 games there. It’s not as common as one would think – a player jumping between positions and maintaining a high level of performance. He’s not Ben Zobrist, and the in-season position changes probably hurt him defensively. Since his natural position is shortstop, it would stand to reason he would be capable of relearning that position and preforming well again with more reps.

He’s still young

Gleyber Torres is still a baby. He’ll be 24 on Opening Day in 2021, and he’ll most likely improve with more experience. However, it’s anybody’s guess how long it will take for those improvements to yield results. A good example of a best-case scenario currently plays for the Yankees. In 2019, Clint Fraizer looked lost in the field no matter where he played. He made a lot of bone-headed errors that veterans just don’t make. This year, however, Fraizer is a finalist for a Gold Glove and anyone who watched him play this year could see that the improvement he showed was amazing and unexpected. That could be Torres next year, and if the Yankees resign DJ LeMahieu, they could potentially have three Gold Glove finalists in their infield.

The weirdness of 2020

2020 was weird for everybody. Even though all of the teams in the league experienced this weirdness in the same way, that doesn’t mean that the effects it had on individual players were the same. The fact that the season was brought to a halt near the end of spring training, and then took months to restart, had to mess with the player development aspect of each team. For younger players like Torres, who were just starting to get used to a routine, starting and stopping is not what you want. Hopefully he has a normal offseason and 2021 progresses without any problems.

I think Torres is the shortstop of the future. There are a number of other options out there, like Francisco Lindor or even a Did Gregorius reunion. However, I think that Torres has the potential to be as good, if not better, than both of those players with the bat. The defense could get there too, if he has time to work on it and stays healthy next season.