The 2021 season did not begin especially well for shortstop Gleyber Torres. He struggled both at the plate and with his glove in the infield, and the Yankees‘ 6-11 start only amplified the woes of both Torres and the team as a whole.
To make matters worse, the Yankees were hit with a flurry of positive COVID-19 results in mid-May, with Torres being the long afflicted player despite being asymptomatic and previously battling the virus in December. Torres’ COVID IL stint came at a most inopportune time for him professionally as well, since he had just started to heat up with the bat, notching a .725 OPS in the previous 17 games.
Torres was absent from the team for a total of seven days, which forced the Yanks to get creative with their infield positioning. DJ LeMahieu saw reps at third and Tyler Wade had his playing time increased as New York shuffled the lineup. However, when Torres returned after missing a week, he came back with a vengeance and has been playing his best baseball of the season. Our very own Andrés Chavez recently wrote about how the pressure was on Torres to prove that his April funk was truly over as he came off the COVID IL, and he was correct.
Since returning from the COVID IL, the 24-year-old has answered the call by going 8-for-14 (.541), with a home run, a double, and six RBI. Oh, and did I forget to mention Torres’ walk-off single during Friday’s game against the White Sox?
Not only did Torres contribute the game-winning base knock in the ninth, but he actually provided all the offense in New York’s 2-0 victory as he planted a solo home run into the right field seats in the bottom of the seventh inning — which gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead.
After Saturday’s victory over the White Sox, Aaron Boone said that Gleyber Torres’ improved strike zone awareness is helping him at the plate. We have also noticed Torres recognizing offspeed and breaking pitches much better as of late. Take this as an example as he sits on the ball and waits back on it before blasting it for a two-run double:
Torres is coming off a four-RBI game and will look to continue to see the ball well and maintain his hot bat moving forward. In order to do that, he will need to start hitting the ball harder. His average exit velocity of 84.9 mph puts him in the third percentile of the entire league. Hitting the ball around 85 mph will only get you so far and typically won’t continue to see results the way Torres has been. Is he a victim of the deadened baseballs? Possibly, but we know the talent he can be at the plate as we’ve seen in recent days and over the last few seasons. He’s never averaged an exit velocity over 90 mph since entering the league in 2018, but if he could reach that mark, he’d unlock another level to his game.
Not only has Torres’ offensive production improved, but his defense has also seen a slight uptick. According to FanGraphs, Torres owns two defensive runs saved on the year, paired with a 2.0 RngR and 5.3 UZR/150. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers by any means, but there seems to be some improvement. His Outs Above Average numbers disagree with that statement, so there is still a lot of room for him to grow into the shortstop the Yankees need him to be.
Since making his return to the lineup for the Yankees, Gleyber Torres has been the player we all know he is and can continue to be. Clutch and timely hitting has been the driving force for him over the last handful of games, and he will try to sustain this momentum to get his numbers back to where they should be.