No one saw it coming, but Ronald Torreyes turned out to actually be kind of good. The short, yet versatile infielder managed to stay on the roster throughout the entire 2016 season, even when expectations were incredibly low for him. Acquired last offseason in a deal with the Dodgers for the likes of Rob Segedin, he didn’t look like much more than infield depth. The Yankees lost him to a waiver claim just a few weeks later, but they soon brought him back and this time he stayed.
Torreyes was considered a fringe prospect when he came over from Los Angeles. The glove was solid but the bat was suspect. He could hold his own at the plate, however, it didn’t look like it would translate to the major league level. Torreyes made it to Triple-A by the age of 21, but he’s also on his sixth team since 2010. Given his diminutive size (he’s listed at 5-10 lol), his status on the roster, and his skill set, it was easy to turn Torreyes into a bit of a folk hero.
In the month of April, hit managed to collect eight hits in just 21 plate appearances. It was a small sample, but he looked like a promising addition to the Yankee bench. Things then fell apart and he struggled at the plate through May and into June. At one point he never saw the field in eight straight games and people started wondering where he was hiding. It wasn’t until August that he came back to life, hit .438/.471/.719 over the month—hit his first home run—and took over full-time duties for Chase Headley. It was perhaps the most bizarre storyline the team had going all season long.
Now, in the dead of winter, we have the chance to sit back and see just what happened in 2016. Maybe Torreyes didn’t end up becoming the most memorable folk hero of our times, but he did have his worth. He proved that he could stick on a major league roster all season long, he could hit in spurts, and most importantly, he could do a fine job playing off the bench at third, second, or shortstop. To find someone who can contribute on occasion without rotting away on the bench is rare. Most players need to play every day to maintain their rhythm.
Heading into spring training, it should be clear that the backup infield position is his to lose. This year, he doesn’t have many players to contend with. The Yankees signed Ruben Tejada as one of their only minor league free agent deals. He has the best chance of upending Torreyes, but will have to blow everyone out of the water before the Yankees decide to put him on the major league roster. He is just one season removed from a decent .261/.338/.350 effort, but his defense has a mixed rating—especially in more recent years.
Then there’s former first round pick Cito Culver. After seven seasons in the system, the shortstop became eligible for minor league free agency, however, the organization brought him back—and maybe for good reason. Despite his inability to put bat on ball, his defensive capabilities led him to spend time at every infield position in 2016. Maybe they just need a shortstop at Triple-A Scranton, but if the Yankees want versatility, Cito could give it to them. We just have to see if he actually gets an invite to spring training.
Shortstop prospect Tyler Wade has been given reps at second base in recent years, and there has been indication that they could try turning him into a super utility player. Of course, Wade hasn’t played above Trenton or seen time at third base, so he wouldn’t be a top choice to serve in this role, at least not yet.
I’ll bring him up just because I’m sure someone will mention him. If you’re thinking about Rob Refsnyder in all this, it’s important to remember that he’s really not able to do much at any infield position. The Yankees decided a long time ago he wasn’t going to be a starting second baseman, but I suppose he could do fine in a pinch. He showed us last year how bad of an idea it was to try him at third base. I will give him credit for his work at first base, though that’s another role entirely. It’s looking like Refsnyder is just not going to fit this roster anytime soon.
Torreyes might not be the best player—or even just bench player—in the world, but he did well enough. With no one there to replace him, we should see him get another chance at the major league level this year. There will certainly be a time when we can move away from having this type of role on the roster, it’s just not going to be this year. He’ll hold down a roster spot for now.
And just for fun, I will leave you with this beauty: