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Gleyber Torres’ power is still missing, and the Yankees need it

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The young infielder has a 124 wRC+ since September 10, but that figure is somewhat deceiving.

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Of all the Yankees who have struggled in 2021, Gleyber Torres is by far the most disconcerting case. Sure, he has been on the injured list and missed games, but whenever he has been on the field, the results just haven’t been there. Before Wednesday’s game, the infielder is hitting .257/.330/.357 with eight home runs and a 92 wRC+ in 496 plate appearances. That’s only good for a .100 ISO (isolated power) mark, which is well below-average.

Dating back to last season, Torres has 8 home runs in 656 plate appearances. That is utility-infielder power, and it has become a problem for the Yankees at this point. Once dubbed as the Bombers’ shortstop of the future, Torres became a liability in almost every facet of the game and was recently moved back to second.

Since the return to the keystone, Torres has actually enjoyed a nice little stretch at the plate. Since September 10th, he is slashing .302/.371/.444 with two homers in 70 plate appearances. That equates to a 124 wRC+, which is more or less in line with early-career Gleyber, who had a 121 wRC+ season in 2018 and a 125 wRC+ year in 2019. There have even been some timely run-scoring hits within this stretch as well.

However, the most recent of edition of Torres isn’t quite the same as the one who turned heads as a rookie and 22-year-old. The version we have seen from September 10th to this point still has minimal power. The 2018 and 2019 iterations had a .209 and a .256 ISO, respectively, and the one of the last 20 days is a mere .143. At this point, it’s a long-running issue, even if there’s a chance that the power is still lying within him somewhere.

Hitting the ball hard consistently has been a problem for Torres, but one could argue that this has been true throughout his entire career. For the season, though, he has a hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls hit at 95 mph or higher) of 34.7 percent, which ranks him in the 21st percentile. During his hot stretch, it’s even lower, at 24 percent. That seems to suggest his seemingly great production since September 10th isn’t sustainable.

With that .143 ISO and a poor 84.6-mph average exit velocity in the last 20 days, it’s hard to say that Gleyber is fully back yet. In fact, Yankees’ fans might have to deal with the fact that he may never be fully back, at least not to the extent of the 2018-19 editions.

It may be hard to accept, but so many factors suggest that Gleyber’s days as a 30-homer batter are over. This may just be who he is now, and it’s fair to conclude that the ball had a notable influence in his 38-dinger season two years ago.

Optimists would point out the fact that Torres’ max exit velocity of 111.5 mph in 2021 is in the 81st percentile, suggesting that he is capable of hitting the ball hard per se. Doing it consistently, however, is the real challenge, one that will likely result in quite a challenge for the Yankees to tackle over the offseason.

For now, Torres will have to keep trying to find his rhythm and have good at-bats in 2021, as the Yankees badly need him. Of course, they would prefer his 2019 version, and that’s actually the one that could suit this team better as the Bombers try to find another consistent source of power besides Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

The 2021 version of Gleyber Torres has problems generating consistent power and is abysmal defensively (he has been better at second, though), but takes his walks and is willing to steal some bases. It remains to be seen if he can be at least an average hitter in these last few games and in the postseason, should New York make it that far.