If you’ve followed the Yankees through the early rounds of spring training, you’re familiar with the biggest stories from camp. Miguel Andujar has rushed onto the scene, Giancarlo Stanton does not like the sun, and Jordan Montgomery has shown a stretch of pitching brilliance. The other story you may have seen is that Gleyber Torres isn’t doing so well in his first spring training since Tommy John surgery. Torres is slashing just .125/.167/.250 this spring, and that has led some to speculate that he’s lost his shot at an Opening Day start.
Yankees community, we need to calm down.
Gleyber’s spring performance was never going to affect his Opening Day status. It makes too much sense for the Yankees to finagle his service time, keeping him in the minors for the 12 days required to save a full year of team control. Torres could have lit the world on fire and still seen an assignment with Scranton to start the regular season. All his spring has shown us is that assignment may need to be a little longer than two weeks, and that’s okay.
For pitchers, Tommy John surgery requires at least a full year off. Thankfully, such major reconstructive surgery is relatively rare for position players, but that rarity also leads to greater uncertainty about a recovery timetable. For all we know, Torres isn’t fully recovered, or at least not comfortable with the signals his body is sending on the field. Remember, we didn’t know for sure that Aaron Judge was hurt the post-All Star Game stretch until the offseason, and it took the Yankee medical team months to figure out what was plaguing Greg Bird. The information asymmetry in any medical case is so great that it’s pointless to assume any player is ever 100%.
The rest of the Yankee roster has done well to buy Gleyber the time he needs to get comfortable again as well. Every day, Andujar looks more and more like he’ll crack the Opening Day roster. Just before camp opened, Brian Cashman swung a deal for the versatile Brandon Drury, and the team can still count on Ronald Torreyes to offer infield depth. Simply put, if the Yankees were going to experience a setback from their top prospect, there’s no better time for it to happen.
And setbacks do happen. One of the things most remarkable about the Yankees’ stellar farm system is how smoothly the best pieces of it have transitioned into productive big-league talent. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino have of course received significant awards consideration already, but the mid-level prospects have found success too. Montgomery was everything the Yankees could ask of a fifth starter last year, and appears to be even better thus far in 2018. Chad Green was of course, Chad Green.
All of the success Yankee fans and writers have seen from their young stars has, I think, spoiled them to the realities of developing talent. Not every player is going to be a hit right away, and that’s okay. Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi were both barely above league average - Moncada prorated over a full season, of course - in their first full campaigns, and nobody rational expects any less of them the second time around.
Gleyber Torres is going to see a stretch of time with the RailRiders to start the regular season. The question will be how much time exactly that is, and that is all he has control over at this point. He’s still the best prospect in the Yankee system, and he’s still easy to project as a high-end, physically mature major league ballplayer. Two rough weeks in spring training doesn’t change what the Yankees see in him.