Gleyber Torres’ big league debut in 2018 was a matter of when, not if. His Tommy John surgery last season caused some fans to worry, but the Yankees declared Torres healthy prior to the start of spring training. They just wanted to give their prized prospect some time to shake the rust off before calling him up to the show. There miiiight have been some service time manipulation in play, but we’ll never know for sure.
When Torres was finally brought up to the Bronx in late April, he wasted zero time in assuring the Yanks and their fans that he was back to 100 percent health. In fact, Torres gave the Yankees yet another reason to be excited about their young core with a Rookie of the Year-caliber season. Torres was everything the Yankees could have hoped for in 2018, and so much more.
2018 Statistics: 123 games, 431 AB, .820 OPS, 24 HR, 77 RBI, 118 OPS+, 2.9 WAR
2019 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible
Torres epitomized the expression “storming onto the scene” with an absolutely torrid May, posting a 179 wRC+ in his first full month of major league experience. The 21-year-old didn’t record his first home run until his 13th game of the season, but once that ball cleared the outfield wall, Torres made it a habit. He slugged a 415-foot walk-off home run against Cleveland for his second home run of the season, and passed Mickey Mantle as the youngest Yankee ever to hit a walk-off dinger.
Two weeks later, Torres recorded his first multi-homer game of his career, with a pair of bombs against the Rangers in a 10-5 victory. He would also hit another home run the following day. And the day after that. And...well, you get the idea.
When the smoke cleared from Torres’ scorching start, he had become the youngest Bomber to homer in four-straight games, earned his first All-Star selection, and by the Fourth of July, had a .905 OPS and 15 home runs in 63 games played. For Torres and the Yanks, the future was now.
Unfortunately for Torres, he would be unable to play in the All-Star Game after hitting the DL with a hip strain. He returned in late July and encountered the first slump of his career, posting a .540 OPS over his next 19 games. Of course, once he settled back in, his OPS over the next 15 games skyrocketed to 1.076.
Had Torres not been competing with a guy who was doing things not seen since Babe Ruth, plus a teammate who was having a historic rookie season of his own, he would have been an easy Rookie of the Year choice. Sure, his youth could be seen in frustrating ways at times in the field and on the bases, but that comes with the territory of a 21-year-old kid. That should improve, too.
Rookie mistakes aside, Torres looked like a veteran in the batter’s box, even when he was slumping after the hip injury. His walk rates in July and August were the highest of the season, right when he was trying to regain his form. Even when his swing wasn’t 100-percent, he put together quality at-bats. He also showed an ability to hit to all fields and cover all quadrants of the strike zone, as illustrated by his FanGraphs spray chart.
Ironically, Torres’ pull rate was six percent higher at Yankee Stadium than it was at home, so perhaps something on his to-do list in 2019 will be to take advantage of the short porch in right. Regardless, Torres proved that he could become one of the best all-around hitters on the Yankees in years to come, and somehow exceeded the hype that surrounded him when the Bombers brought him over from Chicago in 2016.