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Gleyber Torres, Yankees to face career-defining rivals in 2020

The unique scheduling for 2020 will have Torres facing down the rivals that will define his career.

2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Rivalries emerge in different ways, capturing the imaginations of all fans involved. Mantle vs. Mays, Bird vs. Magic, Brady vs. Manning, Jeter vs. Nomar—these were all, at one time, defining rivalries in their sports.

Players who begin their careers at roughly the same time become natural rivals as their career arcs overlap, and help define each other’s accomplishments. This season, Gleyber Torres will face some of the game’s top young players, against whom he will be judged in for the bulk of his career.

Many of the best rivalries are those that have time to play out over the course of years. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird competed at the highest stage in college, and then followed it with a decade at the top of the NBA. Over the last several years, Torres, Rafael Devers, Ronald Acuna, and Juan Soto have emerged in East Coast markets to establish themselves as not just future, but current, stars of the game.

Torres and Devers are the most natural rivals of the group. They play on the infield for the biggest rivals in baseball, in a similar manner to Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra when they emerged in the mid-1990s.

Devers arrived first in the majors, after being promoted late in 2017 as Boston sought an answer at third base. Only a season-ending injury to Torres delayed his promotion until the next year.

When Torres reached the majors early in 2018, he found himself on track with two other truly elite prospects in Acuna and Soto. Acuna had passed the injured Torres to become the top-rated prospect in all of baseball. Soto was well on his way to that title when the Washington Nationals promoted him after just eight games at the Double-A level.

That season the paths of all these players have passed briefly during interleague play. Acuna and Soto battled each other for Rookie of the Year honors, while Torres finished third, establishing himself as a star in the making.

All of these players, debuting within 100 games of each other, will make for career-long comparisons among fans. It will be easy to compare stats like WAR, wRC+, and home-run rates, as well as honors such as All-Star appearances and MVP votes.

The key to any great rivalry is that these players compete on the game’s biggest stages. Devers and Soto already have World Series rings; Torres and Acuna have made the playoffs in both of the major-league seasons.

When they reached October, they produced. Soto managed an 1.178 OPS in last year’s World Series. Torres has 10 RBI in 14 career playoff games, and Devers owns an .884 postseason OPS.

The 2020 season will help kick these rivalries up a notch as the Yankees will only play teams from the Eastern Divisions. Torres and the Yankees will open the season against Soto and the Nationals. They will see Devers and the Red Sox for 17% of their games. The Braves and Acuna are a solid bet to win the NL East again.

Baseball is blessed with some amazing young talent. Gleyber Torres, Rafael Devers, Ronald Acuna, and Juan Soto have emerged at roughly the same time to form a core of great young players on the East Coast. With the realignment of the schedule this season, Torres will spend a big portion of his season staring down the rivals that he will compete with for championships, and be compared against, for the rest of his career.