Gleyber Torres is coming, sooner rather than later.
He might have already been in pinstripes if not for that pesky service time clause the Yankees are trying to manipulate. Following Wednesday, an off-day for the big league club, Torres won’t be eligible for free agency until 2024 due to amassing 20 additional days in the minor leagues. The Braves are doing it with their top prospect Ronald Acuña, all of this after the Cubs made waves for manipulating Kris Bryant’s eligibility back in 2015.
Torres’ arrival with the big club can have two effects, all depending on if he performs at the level that is expected of the top prospect (No. 5 in all of baseball). His presence can provide a spark to a clubhouse that hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts; their .533 winning percentage trails both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox within the highly competitive AL East. He can also provide valuable infield depth while possibly becoming the everyday starter at second base after Tyler Wade has fallen out of favor due to his poor start.
A matter of when, not if
Torres’ probably would have been one of the September call-ups in 2017 if not for tearing a ligament in his non-throwing elbow after sliding into home plate. In his brief stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre last year, he hit .309 with a .863 OPS and seemed primed to join the Yankees in what ended up being an unexpectedly deep playoff run
He recovered in time for Spring Training, and it was expected of him to compete for the starting second base job. But it was clear there was rust in his bat and glove as he managed a lowly .219 batting average with 10 strikeouts. The decision to send Torres to Triple-A was a wise one considering he still had room for development at 21 years old.
Fast forward to April, and Torres is knocking on the door. His torrid start has him hitting .366 with 15 hits in 11 games while sharing time between second, shortstop, and third base to maximize his athleticism and utility. His lone error in the field has come at shortstop, a sign he’s playing both sides of the ball well and perhaps rounding back into his 2017 form before the injury.
Consider MLB’s scouting evaluation on Torres, which sees him as a player who will “project as a hitter who can contend for batting titles while providing 20-plus homers annually.” His ability to spray line drives all across the field will benefit a lineup that has adhered to the three true outcomes of baseball: home run, walk, or strikeout.
Also, consider how Scranton is protecting the organization’s top prospect. On Monday night, Torres was removed from the game after only two at-bats. Social media experts were prophesying Torres’ time had come, two full days before the service time deadline, and was boarding a plane to the Bronx.
Instead, it was a precautionary measure taken by the Scranton RailRiders after Torres mentioned back stiffness. If a call-up is imminent, which it seems everyone throughout the organization is expecting for the 21-year-old, there’s no need to push the top prospect in less than ideal conditions.
The next top prospect is ready to bolster the Yankees’ ranks. Fans have been salivating at a lineup that includes Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres. Nothing is certain, as Torres can either soar upon arriving in the big leagues or prove that he still needs seasoning in Scranton.
Torres can be the spark plug that shakes the cobwebs from this Yankees team that seems to take one step forward and two steps back. The Chicago Cubs enjoyed Kris Bryant’s debut as he marched towards the NL Rookie of the Year award and the Cubs to the NLCS before winning it all a year later.
That’s not to say Torres is a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year (Shohei Otani is running away with that award this early in the year), nor is it a clear sign that the Yankees’ will be equally invigorated as the Cubs were.
But Torres has earned his cup of coffee. It’s time for him to don the pinstripes.
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