Since bursting onto the scene in 2018, Gleyber Torres has been one of the top producers in an elite lineup. The 23-year-old infielder has stayed on the fast track development-wise that brought him through the minors in just three full seasons. His power numbers have skyrocketed, his ability to create walks has transitioned well, and his strikeout rates have normalized after an early spike.
After the departure of Didi Gregorius this offseason, Torres is being moved back to his natural position at shortstop. It’s a more challenging position, but there is optimism that Torres will adapt positively to the change. There certainly isn’t an expectation that the move will slow Torres’ growing offensive threat, as Torres is projected to continue demolishing baseballs.
2019 Stats: 604 PA, .278/.337/.535, 38 HR, 90 RBI, 125 wRC+, 21.4 K%, 7.9 BB%, 3.6 fWAR
2020 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections: 623 PA, .280/.343/.534, 38 HR, 107 RBI, 127 wRC+, 20.6 K%, 8.5 BB%, 4.1 WAR
A second straight campaign of putting up All-Star caliber numbers has moved Torres up the ladder in the Yankees lineup hierarchy. The sailing has been mostly smooth, but there were small concerns to be had over whether Torres could sustain this level of production. Torres has had a career-long tendency of relying on an extremely high BABIP — a worrying trend that could’ve indicated he was getting fortunate results.
Those worries were put to bed last year. Not only did Torres improve his eye for the ball and slugging numbers, but his BABIP normalized in the process, and he kept slugging all throughout. It’s fair to say that this is now Torres’ floor production, but looking towards some of the elite shortstops in the game there’s a strong indication that he could enter the upper echelons.
Take an example in the Yankees’ division — Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. After a rough rookie season where he was nearly exactly replacement level, Bogaerts has been at an All-Star level throughout his career, and he’s taken another stride over the past couple of years. Bogaerts was in the running for AL MVP last season, and his ability to take ownership of the strike zone has been a significant reason why he’s taken off.
Torres is four years younger than Bogaerts, but can follow a very similar path. Depth Charts is one of the more optimistic projections for Torres’ production, but there is nearly universal agreement that his power is legit and his walk percentages are for real. Given more opportunities near the top of the Yankee order and time to grow into his prime, there is a real opportunity for Torres to ascend to the top of the league’s offensive threats.
Defensively, things have been a bit of a journey for Torres. He has been below-average throughout his major-league career with the glove, perhaps the only downside we’ve seen in his game so far, but he has dealt with playing between two positions. That is no longer a concern, and the numbers last season showed that Torres was closer to competent at short than he was at his secondary role at second base — a -4.7 UZR/150 versus an -11.7, respectively. Now that he’s locked into one position for the foreseeable future, we will hopefully see his fielding numbers rise, though he may never be consistently elite with the glove.
The Yankees have bonafide superstars like Aaron Judge anchoring their team, and a cast of stars around them. Considering the age gap and the health concerns faced for each player however, It’s fair to argue that in the near future we may be seeing Torres’ name headline the lineup.