Three years ago, Yankees management closed the door on one era of baseball and opened another. After a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees, loaded with aging veterans, decided it was time to change course. Before long, Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller were shipped to Texas and Cleveland, but the biggest trade actually came first: Aroldis Chapman went to the Cubs for a package headlined by Gleyber Torres.
At the time, Torres was the top prospect in the Cubs’ system, and certainly the crown jewel of the various minor leaguers Brian Cashman nabbed in the Yankees’ selloff. There was a lot to like about Torres the prospect: great contact skills, a strong arm in the field, and potential for above-average game power. The one thing that stuck out about him, from Baseball Prospectus to FanGraphs, was a mature approach at the plate, the type you’re more likely to see from 10-year MLB veterans than teenagers at High-A:
“What makes Torres special, however, is his offensive potential,” wrote Josh Norris in Baseball America’s ranking of Yankee prospects in fall 2016. “At just 19 years old he already has excellent pitch recognition skills and has shown the ability to sort through breaking pitches in order to get to the fastball he desires.”
Torres hadn’t even sniffed Trenton yet, heck, he hadn’t even put on his MVP showing at the Arizona Fall League, and he was lauded for the kind of determined, disciplined approach that lays the foundation for many a hitters’ production.
Discipline and recognition are truly what raises the floor of a hitter. Elite level contact quality will boost the ceiling—see Gary Sanchez—but the ability to pick up on bad pitches and either leave them alone completely, or foul them off and get a new offering, builds a batter’s floor—see Aaron Judge.
Torres has only played nine games this month, and every other month this season he’s appeared in at least double that number. Before July, we’ve seen him continually cut down on strikeouts while raising his walk rate, and surprise surprise, the month his walk rate and strikeout rate equalized he had a Troutian 171 wRC+.
Torres is in the middle of a real breakout season. Last year’s rookie campaign was stellar, but he was a little overshadowed by Shohei Ohtani and Miguel Andujar. He’s stepped up and been one of the most reliable Yankees through the historical run of injuries, and he’s showing that his scouting reports were spot on. He’s mature beyond his years, his approach reflects that, and he’s probably the most projectable Yankee going forward.