All of Yankeedom came to a standstill when it was announced shortly after Wednesday’s Independence Day game against the Atlanta Braves that surging second baseman Gleyber Torres would go on the 10-day DL with a hip strain. The 21-year-old, who has quickly taken MLB by storm with unheralded power and clutch moments, had taken over the lead for AL Rookie of the Year when two-way star Shohei Ohtani missed significant time due to an elbow injury.
But now the Yankees must navigate their way through a second injury that has reduced their starting lineup significantly. Torres now joins Gary Sanchez (groin) and Masahiro Tanaka (hamstrings) as key contributors who have either missed or will miss significant time. Torres’ bat, which supplemented gap-to-gap contact along with a home run stroke that matured far sooner than what was expected, was a staple in the lineup anywhere from the fifth hole to the number nine slot. Replacing his daily contributions in the meantime will be a difficult task, but the Yankees have options that could bear the burden of his absence.
The start to Tyler Wade’s MLB career has been a difficult one, beset with many learning curves and overall rotten luck. There’s no question the speedy lefty handed hitter can hit…at least at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 386 plate appearances last year, Wade hit to the tune of a .310 average with 22 doubles, four triples, and seven home runs. His offensive production, along with his versatility in the field as he could play three infield positions and both corner outfield spots, earned him a late-season call-up in 2017, but he struggled with consistency often seen in most 22-year-olds at the major league level.
He started 2018 with a solid Spring Training where in 22 games he coupled his .286 batting average with a .400 on base percentage. But again he struggled in the first couple weeks of the season, earning him a demotion after a .086/.158/.143 slash.
Wade might be one of the favorite options by the fans. He’s a homegrown talent, long considered one of the under-the-radar prospects lost in the hype of the Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge arrivals, and his versatility in the field and solid line-drive lefty swing—not to mention his speed—can complement a power-dependent, right-handed dominant lineup. There’s reason to believe he’s a better ballplayer than what his limited showing at the major league level shows; the flu at the beginning of the season robbed him of 12 pounds, a considerable amount of weight to lose in a short time.
Considering he’s slowly returned to form in Triple-A, sporting a .270 batting average as the RailRiders’ leadoff hitter with 16 doubles, three triples, and two home runs, a third chance just might come his way.
Torreyes is another fan favorite but, unlike Wade, he has had considerable success as a utility/role player in both the Joe Girardi and Aaron Boone era.
The diminutive infielder, who plays a much bigger game than his listed 5’8″ build, has compiled a slash of .287/.316/.381 over four seasons, three of which have been spent with the Yankees. “Toe,” as he’s affectionately called by fandom, media personalities, and teammates, was a staple in the young and energetic clubhouse that went all the way to Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. The hit sensation “Toe-nite Show” became the go-to post-home run celebration in the dugout, resplendent with faux microphones, cameras, and mock interviews.
Torreyes would usually be one of the first options to be called up to help fill the void, but Torreyes has been absent for the past week from Triple-A Scranton as his wife has suffered an unspecified illness. For the Yankees to recall him from the minors, he would first have to be activated at Triple-A, and there’s sadly no timetable for when his wife would recover and when he would return.
This could be the chance Brandon Drury gets consistent at-bats at the major league level.
The Yankees traded for the third baseman, expecting that neophyte Miguel Andujar would not have been ready for everyday duties. We know the story from there; Drury’s blurred vision sidelining him and opening the door for Andujar to not only cement his place as the everyday third baseman but also as a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
It was a long road for Drury to return to the majors, featuring many medical tests to identify and correct the cause of blurred vision that affected him throughout his entire career. After an extended stay at Triple-A, one that Drury commented “I don’t belong here,” he’s back with the Yankees. Now it’s just a matter of consistent at-bats.
Drury has experience at second-base. In 2017 he played 114 games there for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it’s no secret that his glove is better suited for third base. But where Miguel Andujar is a one-dimensional third baseman, Drury can not only hold his own at second but also be serviceable.
It was thought Drury’s at-bats would come as a platoon option for Greg Bird at first base. Now he has the possibility to return to the position he saw the most time at in 2017 and show Yankee fans why Brian Cashman was drawn to the right-handed hitter who had 37 doubles with Arizona with blurred vision.
Neil Walker’s days with the Yankees could be limited.
It’s understandable why Aaron Boone and Co. have been so patient with the lack of production out of the veteran infielder. If the Yankees acted on impulse, they would’ve given up on guys like Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge, and Luis Severino after each of their own trials and tribulations before their ascent to stardom.
There is a major difference between those guys and Walker. The latter is 32 years old, and it’s safe to assume his best days are in the past. A decline of offensive production is expected at some point, but not a decline as drastic as a slash of .188/.268/.259. Last year, between the Mets and the Brewers, that slash was a combined .265/.362/.439.
Much like Drury’s case, Walker’s lack of consistent playing time is a major reason for the sharp fall off from last year’s numbers. But Boone continues to give Walker an opportunity to break out of his slump and with Torres’ injury, it’s an equal opportunity for the veteran Walker just as much as it is for Drury or Wade or Torreyes.
The reality for Walker is this: if he can’t provide the production that was expected of him with this opportunity, he might not be a Yankee for much longer.
Torres’ injury is a major blow to the Yankees’ roster. His arrival was the spark that ignited the powder keg; his presence in the lineup help transform the Yankees from mediocrity in the first 18 games to one of the most fearsome and deep lineups in all of baseball.
But the season is long and unpredictable. Gary Sanchez’s injury has suddenly left their catching core dangerously thin; patched together, for the time being, by the always-valiant Austin Romine and another Yankee first-timer in Kyle Higashioka.
The Yankees have more depth in the middle infield positions, but Torres’ offensive production would be difficult to replicate by his replacement. But this is part of the chaos brought upon by the grueling odyssey that is a 162 game MLB schedule; every team faces it at some point. What separates the good teams from the great teams is how they find stability in such chaos.
It’s time for the Yankees to show what kind of team they want to be.
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