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How high hopes (and projections) altered our perception of Gleyber Torres

Expectations and projection systems were incredibly high on Torres after 2019, but things have gone awry,

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Preseason projections are among the primary ways we occupy ourselves during the quietest parts of the offseason. It being that time of year, and a recent discussion we had on our PSA Twitter Space, made me consider Gleyber Torres specifically. We talked mainly about our general perception of him, but my mind went immediately to the wild projections he once had in relation to it. They were incredibly lofty, reaching heights that he sadly hasn’t approached in the real world. It’s not a knock on him or the projections, but I think it can certainly affect the way we think about him.

For the most part, Torres has been a fine-to-good ballplayer so far, with his most promising seasons being his first two in the majors. Since then, he’s been something much closer to an average player. The righty came up at 21 years old, as the Yankees’ top prospect (one of the best in the league), and from the jump he didn’t disappoint. Torres had a 121 wRC+ in 123 games as a rookie, earning Rookie of the Year consideration. He followed it with an even better 2019, where he sported a 125 wRC+ with a surprising 38 homers, en route to a 3.6 fWAR as a 22-year-old.

With Torres being so young, and having such a good season, it came as no surprise that the projections loved him. This came back into my mind when discussing Torres’ current standing, so I dug his ZiPS futures back up, and they were really something.

You don’t really see stuff like this outside of the Mike Trouts of the world. This is MVP-level material here, approaching 50 homers — wRC+ figures around 150 and over-five-win seasons in the middle of the infield? That’s about as good a player as you’ll ever find. I do not want this to be taken as a knock on ZiPS, but this is (unfortunately) not what happened.

In reality, the two seasons following this high praise were below-average performances for Torres, as he put up a 97 wRC+ over the course 2019 and ‘20. He walked more and struck out less, which is encouraging for a young player, but his power plummeted. His ISO was basically cut in half, and he hit just 12 homers in 169 games.

2022, however, was a much more encouraging campaign for him. And in reality, his performance is pretty much exactly what I’d peg him to be going forward: 20-something homers, a 115-120 wRC+, and 2.5 to 3 wins in the infield.

That is a really good everyday second baseman to have on your team, but that’s not quite what it feels like. When it felt like, at one time, that 45-homer, five-win seasons were on the table, his reality is bound to feel like a disappointment. And it’s not just these specific projections, though they are a good point of reference, it’s the general feeling toward guys with massive hype.

Sure, the reliance the Yankees have to place on him in this lineup does not create an ideal situation (his streakiness doesn’t help how we see him either), as he’s someone who is probably just good. But in a vacuum, he is certainly a valuable piece of whatever team he might be on.

Now, as his future with the Yanks seems more uncertain than we might’ve expected post-2019, it feels important to regard him in relation to what he is, not what could’ve been. At this point, I mostly doubt he reaches the heights of his 2019 season. It’s not impossible, but something around his ‘22 statline seems much more realistic, and that’s just fine!

Torres shouldn’t be dealt for a reliever, or something like that, but he also isn’t the perennial MVP candidate that it looked like he might become at one point. He’s just a good (albeit streaky) starting second baseman for the Yankees.