Players looking to complete their sophomore year with Yankees just weren’t meant to have their way in 2019. Jordan Montgomery was recovering from Tommy John surgery, Miguel Andujar had shoulder surgery, and Giancarlo Stanton remained on the injured list for multiple reasons. However, Gleyber Torres was one of three Yankees to stay healthy the entire season and help the team reach 103 wins. Not only did Torres become a force in the postseason, but the young infielder made improvements on numerous elements of the game, only shining more light on his potential going forward.
In early August I wrote a post highlighting some areas where Torres elevated his play at the plate. He kept his chase rate fairly similar but began to swing at pitches in the zone more often and expanded his swing to pitches in the middle of the plate. Not only was Torres swinging more often at pitches in the middle of the zone, but he was also finding more contact against these offerings. Considering his strikeouts looking remained the same as 2018, and his overall strikeout percentage dropped about four percent, we are able to realize his tick in swing percentage was occurring earlier in counts rather than later. Overall, Torres showed a better eye against pitches in the zone and was able to make contact more frequently than before.
The one area that didn’t show too much improvement at the time was his power. After posting a .211 ISO through early August, just two points better than his .209 mark in 2018, Torres decided to prove his bat could generate more pop than usual. By the end of the season, Torres finished with 38 homes runs, the most of all Yankees, .256 ISO, and 89.0 mph average exit velocity.
Yes, the juiced baseball helped just about everyone increase their power numbers, but according to Statcast, hitters produced an average ISO of .161 in 2018, jumping .022 points to .183 in this season. However, Torres’ difference in ISO was more than double the rise made by the average MLB hitter. Considering all players with more than 500 plate appearances during 2019, Torres ranked 27th in ISO, pacing slightly ahead of Freddie Freeman and J.D. Martinez.
From August 12th through the remainder of the regular season, Torres produced a wRC+ of 137 with a robust .344 ISO, over 162 plate appearances. He hit 15 home runs in that span, and if you are wondering, only three of them were against the Orioles. The drastic difference is seen in his HR/FB rate, going from 18.5% to 28.3% after August 12th. Furthermore, while Torres was hitting fly balls for home runs with greater frequency, he raised his fly ball percentage by about five percent as well. The rise in power didn’t come from a rise in exit velocity, which dropped marginally from 89.0 to 88.8 mph, but rather from a rise in launch angle, increasing from 16.9 to 18.8 degrees. Additionally, as soon as Torres decided to be aggressive with pitches in the zone once again, his ISO increased as well.
Throughout the season we saw Torres improve certain areas of his game like plate discipline, contact, and power. Some might still want Torres to chase less pitches outside the strike zone, to help with his strikeout and walk rate. However, power is important to mention because it separates good players from the star players.
One of the biggest advantages that Torres offers is power as a middle infielder. Corner infielders and outfielders have largely been known to be the power positions and any thump from the catchers or middle infielders is considered a plus. Out of all qualified shortstops, Torres ranked third behind Alex Bregman and Trevor Story, while at second base he came in fourth overall.
Having the ability to hit for a .300 plus ISO over a month makes you wonder what Torres can become. That type of display is made by the Mike Trouts and Christian Yelichs of the baseball world. It’s wild to think Torres will be playing his age-23 season in 2020, but that shows he’s still uncapping a large amount of his skill set. He’s already shown that he can cover more areas of the zone, can hit for power, and can play shortstop if needed. His sophomore season was a success, and not only strengthened what we knew about him, but opened more doors to what might be possible.