Despite the constant rumors regarding Gleyber Torres’ future with the Yankees, Torres turned in a career year in 2023. He reestablished himself as one of the best second baseman in all of Major League Baseball, silencing any doubt about whether he belonged on the team. In the second half, Torres had a 144 wRC+, good for the second-highest mark at the position in the American League, behind only José Altuve.
Other than Aaron Judge, he was undeniably the team’s best hitter. Outside of June, Torres was extremely consistent all year, and showed more willingness to make adjustments than previous seasons. In terms of positive Yankees developments on the offensive side, none was more exciting than Gleyber’s. His grade for this season was well deserved:
2023 Statistics: 158 games, 672 plate appearances, 25 home runs, 90 runs, 68 RBI, 13 stolen bases, .273/.347/.453, 123 wRC+, 3.2 fWAR, 10.0 BB%, 14.6 K%
2024 Contract Status: Final year of arbitration
There were two key holes in Gleyber’s offensive profile in the last few seasons that were holding him back. The first was his total lack of approach. When analyzing plate approach, typically I would say a hitter chased too much, or didn’t attack pitches in the heart of the zone enough, something along those lines. Torres just didn’t have an approach at all. At times he would go to the plate and be aggressive on the first fastball, and other times he would let it go right by him. He genuinely seemed to not have a plan, but that all changed this season.
There were marginal improvements in several areas that led to Torres’ overall increase in walks and drastic decrease in strikeouts. To start, he lowered his chase rate by 1.8 percentage points. When he did chase, he was much more willing to adjust his body to get a competitive swing off. In his career, he had never made contact on at least 60 percent of the pitches he chased, but that shot up to 64.6 percent this season. He showed a clear willingness to not let pitchers beat him close. More specifically, when he was in a hole, he committed to not getting beat by heaters. Here are a few examples:
Committing to this approach with two strikes forces pitchers to make high quality pitches with their breaking ball. If they challenge you with a heater, you have to be prepared. His willingness to hold his posture on pitches up in the zone this season was impressive. Gleyber used to get into the habit of taking the same swing regardless of the count. For the first time in recent memory, he knew when and how to adjust his leg kick or pace of his load to put himself in a position to hit.
According to Robert Orr’s SEAGER metric, which measures swing decision quality based on run value per count and location, Gleyber was in the 85th percentile. This means he had a balanced approach of not letting hittable pitches go by, and attacking pitches and getting his hacks off in the right counts. Much of this is mentality related, of course. But I can’t help but think his improved mechanics put him in a better mental state too. That mechanical piece was the second key improvement from his 2023 season.
For the last two seasons in particular, Torres was a pedestal hitter. Before explaining what that means, I’ll show you. The swing below came on a heater right down the middle from June 2022. He hit the ball 102 mph, but it had little carry:
A pedestal sits on the ground, doesn’t move, and points directly perpendicular to the ground. It’s a static position. Some hitters, past Gleyber included, use a big leg kick but never create any stretch in their body, resulting in their center of mass hovering over their back foot directly perpendicular to the ground. Because of this, when they take their swing, their bat bath isn’t moving directly through the zone. Instead, it cuts off and works from the bottom of the zone through the top. Even on a fastball down the middle, Gleyber could only produce a long fly ball.
He nearly completely fixed this mechanical flaw this season. Adding the standard stride with no leg kick certainly helped. Varying movements like that can help reinforce the correct feel or stretch. By being in more athletic positions, his body was more adjustable than previous years. This, combined with improved swing decisions, is good explanation for how his profile improved so much.
Even after 2022, Gleyber felt like an obvious extension candidate. That feeling is only reinforced after 2023. There is no obvious heir apparent in the minor leagues. Oswald Peraza cannot be viewed as a guarantee. In next winter’s free agency, José Altuve and Ha-seong Kim are the best two alternatives, but Altuve likely won’t go anywhere, and Kim would be an offensive downgrade despite the fantastic defense. With the current state of the roster, the Yankees should work to retain one of their best hitters, even if he isn’t a superlative defender or baserunner.
There will be scarcity in the middle infield in free agency next year. If Torres has another fantastic season, he’ll enter as one of the best hitters available and likely garner a significant deal heading into his age 28 season. Of all the players on this roster, the urgency to extend him is the highest.