There is no doubt that plenty of Yankee fans thought the season would get off to a better start than it has so far. The April schedule featured a few easy teams along with the Astros and Red Sox. The month isn’t over and the Yankees can still end on a good note, but it could have been better. The Yankees knew they would be short Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, and Jordan Montgomery to begin the season but the injuries snowballed.
Despite the rocky start, several players stepped up for the Bombers in the early goings. One such player was Gleyber Torres, who helped the Yankees sweep the Orioles in Baltimore. With his production the first two weeks of the season, Torres earned the clean up spot. He has not been the same since that Baltimore series, however, and a demotion in the lineup could be in his future when Gary Sanchez returns. What has changed?
Torres’ change in production
His first 39 plate appearances compared to his last 40 are like the difference between night and day. It’s almost like looking at two different players. The most alarming part of this is how far his slugging percentage has dropped since he started slumping. He ended last year with a strike out rate of 25.2%, so his early strikeout numbers were bound to increase, but his 2.5% walk rate is troubling. His wRC+ has also fallen off a cliff. Has he changed his approach?
Torres’ change in approach
Torres is indeed now swinging at pitches in the zone a lot more than he was before, increasing his zone swinging percentage by 17%. That’s not much of a problem since his zone contact percentage hasn’t changed much while he has decided to swing more. The difference is what he is now doing with the these balls once he puts them in play. Torres has doubled the amount of balls he is hitting to the opposite field. This would usually be a good thing considering Torres’ home ballpark is Yankee Stadium, but so far it hasn’t given him the best results. Since he dropped his initial pull rate of 44.8% to begin the season, his ability to hit the ball hard has slightly taken a dip and his ability to hit home runs has seen a big change. Only 10% of his fly balls have been home runs.
Gleyber Torres has shown us multiple times he can be one of the best players on the Yankees, a team that’s already stacked with talent. Given all the injuries, the Yankees really need him to step up again. Regardless of the cause of Torres’ slump, it keeps expanding by the day. It will grow more noticeable as he continues to bat cleanup. Some injured Yankees may return soon, but that’s no guarantee. Until everyone is back, the team needs Torres to find a way to hit closer to his talent level. The success of the 2019 season may depend on it.