Gleyber Torres’ 2022 season is an interesting one to grade. If you just look at the back of his baseball card at the end of the season, you’re perhaps a little underwhelmed. Especially in the context of his first two seasons in the Bronx, when it looked like his potential was unlimited. But, on the other hand, if you’re grading Torres on the curve that is his atrocious previous two seasons, then maybe you look at 2022 more appreciatively. In the end, it feels like his final grade makes sense.
2022 Statistics: 140 games, 572 PA, .257/.310/.451, 115 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR
2023 Contract Status: Two years of team control remaining, projected to earn $9.8 million in 2023
Let’s lead off with the bad. The dog days of August really really kicked Gleyber around. After a first half wherein he put together a 129 wRC+ while rediscovering his power, to the tune of 14 home runs (two more than he hit in 169 combined games in 2020 and 2021), everything came crashing down in August.
Over those awful 31 days, Torres managed a paltry .180 batting average. His walk rate cratered, down to 2.9 percent for the month. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate soared to 32 percent — 11 points higher than in any month to that point. From May through July, his monthly wRC+ was 126, 131, and 134, respectively. In August... 28. It’s hard to overstate how bad Torres was offensively in August, and that month exerts considerable drag on his overall numbers and his grade.
Despite a full month at the plate that was worse by wRC+ than CC Sabathia’s career mark (the southpaw retired with a 35 wRC+), when the season came to an end, Torres’ final line looked fine, particularly in comparison to 2020 and 2021. Among qualified batters, his 115 wRC+ tied him for fourth on the Yankees alongside Giancarlo Stanton. His 2.7 fWAR was good for sole possession of fourth on the club as well.
If you’re looking for an explanation behind Torres’ offensive improvement in 2022, I offer you two. First, he got back to hitting the ball hard. After sitting in the 15th percentile in average exit velocity in 2021, that metric skyrocketed to the 76th percentile in 2022. Meanwhile, his barrel rate, maximum exit velocity, and hard-hit rate all ended up in the same vicinity, in the 75th, 75th, and 77th percentiles, respectively. Torres’ hard-hit rate jumped 51 percentiles from 2021. Hit the ball hard. Seems to be a recipe for success.
A second explanation? Torres feasted on fastballs, after being almost helpless against velocity in 2021. His batting average against the pitch jumped from .230 to .292. Incredibly, his slugging percentage against the heater shot up one hundred eighty-six points to .538. And his weighted on-base average went from .299 to .378. If hit the ball hard is a recipe for success, hit the fastball hard seems a mantra to live by.
On the other side of the ball, Torres also showed improvement from the previous two years. Oceans of ink have been spilled talking about Gleyber’s ill-fated move to shortstop beginning in 2020. After two seasons of futility, the Yankees shifted Torres back to second base.
If you want to judge Torres based on Outs Above Average, he showed significant improvement in the field. After never finishing above the 19th percentile in that metric previously, including ignominious finishes in the 2nd percentile (2021) and 1st percentile (2019), Torres concluded the 2022 season in the 36th percentile.
At Baseball Reference, by dWAR, the news is even better. After three seasons with negative numbers at that metric (-0.6, -0.7, and -0.5), Torres finished 2022 with 1.4 dWAR. His improvement in the field provided one of the few highlights for the Yankees in the ALCS. In the seventh inning of Game 2, he started a spectacular double play against the Astros with a dazzling scoop, robbing José Altuve. You love to see it.
It is hard to predict what 2023 holds for Gleyber. His name has already been mentioned this offseason in trade rumors, with the Seattle Mariners said to be interested in acquiring him. Moreover, the Yankees’ two best prospects are middle infielders, with Oswald Peraza arriving in the Bronx last fall, and Anthony Volpe at Triple-A, banging on the door to the Yankees’ clubhouse. If the Yankees decide to move him to improve the roster elsewhere, or to make room for the next generation of prospects, we may have seen the last of Torres in pinstripes.
If Torres is still with the club in 2023, there is reason to be a lot more optimistic about him than there was the previous two off-seasons. Notwithstanding one putrid month at the plate, he showed that his bat is back. Moreover, he improved notably with the glove. He may never hit 38 home runs in a season again the way he did as a sophomore, but he’s still a young, talented, valuable middle infielder.