The hope was Gleyber Torres would make a serious bid for the starting second base vacancy in Spring Training. The expectation was there would be rust that needed shaking following a season-ending Tommy John surgery (in his non-throwing elbow) the year before.
The latter proved to be true as Torres never really found his stride. Both his glove work and bat lacked the explosive difference-making capabilities that have made him a top prospect for the last few years. Thus, it came as no surprise when the Yankees announced they were sending him down to start the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Now, he is the newest member of the New York Yankees and will make his debut today against the Toronto Blue Jays. That said, let’s look at Torres’ journey to the Show.
Cubs trade top prospect to the Yankees
The Cubs acquired Torres as an international free agent and in his tenure with the franchise, he gained a reputation as being a budding potential star. The problem for the Cubs was that he was still a few years away from making an impact in the major leagues. Bolstered by the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, among others, the Cubs needed bullpen help to make a serious run for their first World Series in a century.
So when the Cubs made the Venezuela native Torres as the centerpiece in a trade for Aroldis Chapman with the Yankees in 2016, it was a win-win for both clubs. The Cubs got one of the most electric closers in the game with a fastball consistently at or over 100 miles per hour while the Yankees, still burdened by aging players and less-than-ideal contracts, began the process of restocking their farm system as they sought to build the next dynasty.
Since the trade, the Cubs got their elusive World Series, and the Yankees developed a top-five prospect in all of baseball while also bringing back Chapman via free agency that offseason.
Tearing up the minors
Torres could always hit.
That much was certain in his scouting report throughout his minor league career. It's his bat, graded a 70/80 among scouts, that made him a top-five prospect in all of baseball. His scouting report evaluates him as a player with "quick hands" that benefit him on both sides of the baseball, while also being able to "recognize pitches well" and "use the entire field."
Prior to his injury in 2017, it was speculated he was playing well enough to be a September call-up alongside Clint Frazier. Between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A, he compiled a .287 batting average with seven home runs and 34 RBI.
And while he showed rust in Spring Training this year, his performance at Triple-A has forced the Yankees' hand. In 14 games with Scranton, he is hitting .347 with a .510 slugging percentage and an OPS of .903.
Will that success translate at the major league level? That remains to be seen, but his performance has bought him a cup of coffee in the Bronx at the very least.
What to expect from him
This is the part of Torres' scouting report that should excite fans: he can "contend for batting titles while providing 20-plus homers annually."
Will that happen this year? Probably not, but this is the player who can complement the home run heavy, strikeout prone Yankees' lineup soon. If he approaches the majors as he did the minors—trusting his hands and hitting savvy—he should make an immediate impact as soon as his debut Sunday.
But don't think this is an all bat, no glove prospect. Torres has shown the athleticism that will serve him well at both positions in the middle infield while also the arm strength and footwork to hold his own at third base. With Miguel Andujar swinging as he did in Spring Training, the hot corner belongs to him until it doesn't. Shortstop is Didi Gregorius' domain, no questions asked. With the combined struggles of both Tyler Wade and Neil Walker, second base is Torres' to steal and never relinquish again.
The numbers will speak for themselves when all is said and done. The Yankees' lineup, inconsistent as it has flashed moments of utter dominance and yet also flashes of dormancy, gains another talented hitter with tons of potential.
For now, it's Torres Time. Where were you when it started?
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