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Why the Yankees should still be excited about Gleyber Torres

The young shortstop significantly upped his walk rate in 2020, and it could be a meaningful development for his future outlook.

Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The 2020 season was, as expected, profoundly strange in some senses. For the Yankees, it featured an unlikely leader home run leader in Luke Voit, a surprising breakout in Clint Frazier, and a playoff catcher controversy between Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka, among other things.

The shortened season also left us with some peculiar slash lines, particularly the one belonging to shortstop Gleyber Torres. One year after smashing 38 home runs and slashing .278/.337/.535, the young infielder finished this year at a measly .243/.356/.368, with only three dingers in 42 games. Yet despite the ugly showing and the noticeable drop in slugging percentage, there are reasons to be excited about Torres’ future with the Yankees, particularly in 2021.

For starters, Torres lost several games to hamstring and quad strains. Additionally, he turned it on in September after a sluggish start, as his .259/.377/.466 line and .842 OPS suggest. Those aren’t spectacular numbers by his lofty standards, but they were encouraging and, ultimately, a sign of things to come: Gleyber was heating up.

During the playoffs, Torres slashed .435/.567/.696 with a .530 wOBA and a 246 wRC+. Granted, the sample is tiny (just seven games), but he hit two round-trippers, stole two bases, scored five runs and drove in another five. His defense was suspect, once again, but that’s an issue for another day, or article.

Walking his way to a successful career

By looking at his regular season, September, and playoffs numbers, one things becomes evident to me: Gleyber Torres emerged as a more willing walker in 2020, and that’s excellent news for his future outlook.

The plate discipline numbers show that Torres made significant strides despite his overall drop in production. He trimmed his chase percentage from 35.1% in 2019 to 25.6% in 2020, almost ten percentage points. That is impressive.

While his contact rate remained in the 74% range, he cut his swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) from 13.2% in 2019 to 10.6% in 2020. The conclusion we can draw, even if we don’t have too much data at hand, is not only that Torres improved his plate discipline, but he also honed his bat-to-ball skills. Being more selective at the batter’s box will help Torres maximize his vast offensive potential and be on the basepaths more often, something that was lacking in his profile last year.

He was certainly capable of posting something close to the 13.8 BB% he had in 2020, as he routinely surpassed the 10% threshold during his time in the minor leagues. This is not a mirage, it is an improvement with the potential to stick during the long haul. In 2019, he had a 7.9 BB%. He also lowered his K%; last year, he finished at 21.4%, whereas this season, he was at 17.5%. Yes, the sample is small compared to 2019, but 42 games are not insignificant.

Make no mistake, despite the underwhelming batting line, Gleyber Torres is now a more patient and less vulnerable hitter, and that’s obviously great for the Yankees. The sky is still the limit for the slugger.