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At long last, Gleyber Torres is looking like a starting-caliber player for the Yankees

With offensive and defensive improvements, the Yankees infielder has bounced back nicely after two down years.

MLB: MAY 29 Yankees at Rays Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last time we checked, Gleyber Torres looked a lot better than his 2020 and 2021 versions and was on his way to prove he is back, or at least to some extent. Our own Esteban Rivera explained here that he is letting the ball travel a bit more before making the decision to swing, unlocking better results by virtue of his firing his hips more effectively (and explosively) in terms of speed and direction.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and we can confidently say that Torres does look a lot better, and the results are starting to appear in the box score. For him, it was a long journey of struggles, adjustments, and failure in the last two seasons, but working with Yankees’ hitting coach Dillon Lawson helped him regain his best form.

Torres currently has nine home runs in 45 games and 164 plate appearances during the 2022 campaign, good for a .334 isolated power. He hit nine homers in 2021, too, but needed 127 games and 516 trips to the plate to do so. He has sacrificed many walks – his 4.9 percent walk rate this year is significantly worse than the 9.7 percent mark he put in 2021 – but made a concerted effort to be more aggressive at the plate and lift the ball in 2022. And it’s paying off:

Gleyber Torres batted ball profile

Season GB% FB% LD% PU%
Season GB% FB% LD% PU%
2018 34.3 32.1 25.4 8.3
2019 37.5 30.0 24.3 8.3
2020 41.7 30.6 24.1 3.7
2021 41.8 26.3 25.8 6.1
2022 34.4 34.4 25.6 5.6

His ground ball percentage creeped from the 30s in 2018 and 2019 to 41.7 and 41.8 percent in 2020 and 2021, respectively. It’s not a coincidence that those were his two least productive seasons, as he hit just 12 round-trippers in 676 plate appearances. It is back in the 30s this year, and his fly ball rate is a career-high 34.3 percent.

He is clearly trying to lift the ball and hit it with authority. He is in the 89th percentile in hard-hit rate, and in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity. After slugging just .368 in 2020 and .366 last year, he is now in the 92nd percentile in expected slugging.

His overall line was, before Tuesday’s game, .243/.282/.467; that’s still far from the .278/.337/.535 he had in 2019, when he hit 38 homers, but not as far as it seems. He is slowly getting there, and you could easily argue that what he’s doing in 2022 is far more impressive than what he did three years ago, in a favorable hitting context (the “juiced” ball). At the moment, before Tuesday’s game, his 115 wRC+ is not that far from his 2019 wRC+; which was 125. He is getting better and more comfortable with his renewed approach — his adjustments have been legitimate improvements.

Thankfully for the Yankees, Gleyber’s step forward is not just limited to the plate: he is also improving as a fielder at second base. Clearly out of position at shortstop for years, the Yankees had him play second in 2022, liberated from the stress and the pressure to go out there fearing he would make a mistake or two at short.

Torres has responded with 6 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 327.1 innings at the keystone, and an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) per 150 innings of 7.6. Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA) thinks he hasn’t been that impressive, at -1, but Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) has him at 0.8. FRAA is a play-by-play defensive metric, rather than zone-based. Overall, I think we can all agree and say Gleyber has been above-average with the glove in 2022, which is probably better than the Yankees expected.

The overall package makes Torres a solid regular with some offensive potential, and the Yankees — considering where he was a year ago — have to be pretty happy about how things worked out this season.