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Chronicling Gleyber Torres’ rise from international amateur to top prospect

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The Yankees’ young shortstop has come a long way, and he has a long way to go.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, most Yankees fans have heard about Gleyber Torres. Since they acquired the 19 year-old infielder in the Aroldis Chapman trade back in July, Torres has since hit .254/.341/.385 in the Florida State League, and won the Arizona Fall League MVP after hitting .403/.513/.645 against some of the best prospects in the game.

Brian Cashman expressed his pleasure with Torres so far, saying the following:

The first thing I think when I hear that (because I’m always fascinated by how organizations internally assess talent) is that Cashman likely knew how good Torres could be when the trade was done, obviously, and he is just glad that everyone can see that potential. The other factor is tempering expectations—even though he has made his way into the mainstream’s radar, it’s important to understand that prospects are still prospects.

The more interesting question isn’t when Torres will be ready, or what his floor or ceiling will be, but how he got to this point, and whether that path can give fans any indication of what his future will be like.

Torres was born on December 13, 1996 in Caracas, Venezeula, and he spent his early life training under Ciro Barrios in Maracay. Barrios has multiple academies with up to 35 players training to be signed on July 2nd, and Torres was one of the better prospects. Baseball America rated Torres as the second-best July 2nd prospect in 2013.

That year he turned 16, so he was eligible to be signed under the current CBA’s international amateur rules. This was the year the Cubs went hog-wild spending wise so they could fully utilize the system; they also signed Eloy Jimenez, who is making waves in his own right.

The Cubs ultimately signed Torres for $1.7 million, and MLB.com had the following report on him:

He didn’t play at all professionally in 2013, so to start the 2014 season, here was the outlook courtesy of Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue:

Again, this really shows how far he’s come, as he was an international amateur who had a future likely moved up a few years because of his advanced skill set. In 2014, Torres had an .826 OPS across the Arizona League and Low-A.

2015, though, was when he made a big jump. His offense slumped a little bit as he only had a .722 OPS across Low-A and High-A, but scouts continued to rave about his work ethic and tools. Mauricio Rubio Jr. of Baseball Prospectus, who still has a more tempered opinion of Torres in general, said the following on August 11, 2015:

Going into last season he was ranked on multiple top prospect rankings: he was 41st overall via Baseball America, 28th overall via MLB.com, and 41st overall via Baseball Prospectus.

Even though that was the case, many of the praises and critiques remained the same. On 2080Baseball, there were a few opinions. John Arguello wrote that, “He has shown some power, but whether he will have enough to carry third base is another question. It seems the most likely destination is the position he played today – second base, where he should be an above average player on both offensively and defensively.”

Tory Hernandez said that he was “comparable to shortstop Alex Gonzalez during his formidable years with the Marlins.” The questions still remain about whether he can handle breaking pitches, and whether he can stick at shortstop.

That brings us to his Yankees existence. He came over in the trade that sent Chapman to the Cubs, and Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford came back to the Yankees. Torres was clearly the centerpiece, and I think many at the time knew this was a large haul and an overpay, but a necessary one for a franchise looking for the final piece. Flags fly forever, as they say.

He hit modestly at High-A Tampa—a .726 OPS—but it was his Arizona Fall League production that catapulted him into the spotlight. As recently as four days ago, Jim Callis called him the best prospect in the league:

There’s a good chance Torres finds himself as a top ten global prospect going into 2017. There are many scouts who believe that given his growth already, he can be a big league regular by 2018. I think we should try to stay measured in our expectations, as even the best prospects can fail us.

Based on what we’ve seen from evaluators throughout the years, a few things are clear: Torres is very polished defensively but may not stick at shortstop long-term, and his bat is great but still needs refinement to make sure he can cut down on strikeouts. Even if those things don’t pan out, he still could be an average regular.

Torres has had a long journey all the way from Venezuela to Double-A Trenton in 2017. There have been mostly ups, and I’m sure there will be some downs. I couldn’t be happier that the Yankees were able to acquire Torres from an essentially useless piece, and now they have a renowned prospect in a now-renowned farm system. Prospects will break your hearts, so view this progression as not endlessly linear. Nonetheless, the front office and many Yankees fans hope that this journey ends with Torres in pinstripes in the Bronx.