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What Gleyber Torres still needs to do before he reaches the majors

He’s apparently on the cusp of the big leagues, but he still has a few things to work on

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This spring, the Yankees had a few players who broke out and garnered attention from both media and fans. Some of those players made the final roster and some had to face reality and go back to the uphill climb that is Minor League Baseball. One Yankee who embraced the spotlight and attracted all sorts of attention was Gleyber Torres.

Torres had been acquired by the Yankees in the trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs at last season’s deadline. Almost immediately after the deal, talk was centered around how loaded the Yankees were with young talent up the middle between Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Jorge Mateo, Tyler Wade, and Torres. After hitting an impressive .448/.469/.931 with two home runs and nine RBI in spring training, many wondered just how soon it would be before we see the 20-year-old in the Bronx.

Fuel was only added to the fire when Brian Cashman actually admitted that Torres isn’t too far off. Of course, since he’s so young, he hasn’t had time to see Double-A or Triple-A yet. While the upper minors can be the most crucial levels because it often separates the real talent from the pretenders, the Yankees front office must have a lot of confidence in their new prospect to make that sort of statement.

Before everyone gets carried away expecting him to make his major league debut by midseason, it’s important to remember how bad reality can hit. The Yankees also said that James Kaprielian could be in the majors in 2016, and look what happened. Now that I’ve appropriately deflated everyone’s hopes and dreams, here are a few things that Torres needs to work on this year before he becomes a major league option.

Strikeouts and walks

While Torres has displayed a solid eye at times, his strikeout and walk rates are something to keep an eye on as he goes through Double-A and Triple-A. Over the last three seasons, Gleyber has maintained a strikeout rate of over 20%. It wasn’t until he was traded over to the Yankees that his K-rate fell to 16.7% in 31 games at High-A. Torres is certainly no Aaron Judge when it comes to the strikeout, but given the heightened competition he will see, it’s worth watching out for. His walk rate, on the other hand, has consistently been in the teens and has improved after a down 2015 season where it fell to 8.4% in Low-A.

Power output

As a shortstop, power is obviously not the biggest concern, but when young players like Nolan Arenado, Addison Russell, and Manny Machado are hitting dingers like they’re nothing, home run power at least becomes part of the conversation. Torres has already shown the ability to hit double digit home runs after hitting 11 in 2016. As he ages and his body matures, he will add muscle and strength to hopefully bring that total up in the next few years. After Didi and Castro each managed to hit 20 home runs for the first time last season, big things should be expected of Torres once he gets to the Bronx and has a chance to hit with the short porch in right.

Defensive versatility

Torres is a shortstop by trade with great instincts and good defensive tools. He is expected to stick at the position, but given the depth that the organization has, it’s possible he could be needed at a different position first. The Yankees have Gregorius, Wade, and Mateo at short, but only Castro at second base. They also only have Miguel Andujar behind Chase Headley. It would make sense to give Torres regular reps at different positions in order to get him comfortable all over the infield in preparation for a major league role.

Everything else

Not only should we be looking for the technical things, but it’s equally important that he keep everything else in check. If he struggles at some point, can he maintain his composure? Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo have both gone through their fair share of emotional hurdles. Wade is praised by the organization for his composure and leadership, which is likely one reason they gave him such a long look this spring. Can Torres navigate the minefield that prospects are expected to handle with poise and professionalism? Clint Frazier has seemingly already run the gauntlet, now it might be Gleyber’s turn.

Regardless of what we want to say to ourselves about how good Torres is and how good he should be, even if everything goes perfectly for him this year, it’s still more than likely that he stays in the minors for the entire 2017 season. And that’s ok. He might be the team’s best prospect at the position (multiple positions), but the Yankees have multiple options who can fill in before they have to use him. When the time comes, the organization should have no qualms about getting rid of Castro or Headley or Gregorius, but it might not be that time yet.