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Gleyber Torres has passed his test with the Yankees

Torres was expected to be a middle-of-the-order power bat this year, and he has been.

San Diego Padres v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Stagnation isn’t usually a good thing in any profession, and baseball’s no different. So why then, am I not panicking when I look at Gleyber Torres’ numbers and I see such similar stats between 2018 and 2019?

2018: .271/.340/.480, 8.7% walk rate, 25.2% strikeout rate, 120 wRC+
2019: .279/.329/.515, 7% walk rate, 23.4% strikeout rate, 119 wRC+

In Torres’ case this year, stagnation with some of these numbers is just fine. Torres proved more of a surprise last year than an expected contributor; he frequently batted ninth and his power was more of a luxury than a necessity. He came up clutch, but wasn’t consistently counted on as one of the team’s most-feared bats.

That has changed this year. With several sluggers on the injured list, Torres has spent most of the season batting fourth or fifth. When a player bats higher in the order, he faces more pressure and more difficult at-bats. It wouldn’t have been totally unexpected for Torres’ numbers to decline with the added leverage.

Instead, Torres has produced at the same All-Star level he did last year. He ranks third on the team in both home runs and slugging, and has been every bit the middle-of-the-order contributor that the Yankees hoped he’d be this season.

In that regard, Torres’ power is an interesting subject. His early scouting reports never pinned him as a guy with too much in-game power, but only four middle infielders have more home runs than Torres over the last two years: Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and Manny Machado. That’s elite company for a 22-year-old who wasn’t projected as a huge power guy!

In kind, maybe we have to reconsider how we evaluated Torres as a prospect. Earlier this season, I advocated for Torres to bat leadoff or second in the order, and wished he would hit to the opposite field more instead of pulling the ball so much. Sometimes it feels like Torres gets pull-happy and can sell out for power.

That’s who he is, though. Torres has developed world-class power for his position, and we should recognize him for that. He owns the fifth-best isolated power rate of all middle infielders since his debut, and I think that can be forgotten at times.

Torres will probably go back to batting in the lower third of the order with a full lineup, but that doesn’t mean he has to change his approach. Torres makes for a weapon batting sixth or seventh because he brings the pedigree of a power-threat to a lower spot in the order, where it’s rare to get such power. That in turn will allow his numbers to climb as he feasts from the bottom half of the order, free of the pressures that come with batting cleanup.

While it’s hard to ever be upset with Torres, it was a little surprising at first that his numbers looked the same as last year’s. That doesn’t mean that his development has stalled, however. When accounting for his increased responsibility, it’s a good thing that a player as young as Torres hasn’t declined; he’s even improved in some categories!

Torres’ already solid sophomore season suggests the best is yet to come, and that’s fun to think about.