There is a theory bouncing around Yankee Stadium that Gleyber Torres is not only beginning the season in a good place, but is benefitting from a chip that might be on his shoulder after a subtle erasure from the team’s long-term plans.
Perhaps Torres is the type of player best managed by applying a little pressure and minimizing the sense of security?
Asked on Wednesday afternoon if he was playing with an “I’ll show them I belong here” edge, Torres said, “No, not really.”
Whatever the motivation, Torres has spent the first week of the season reminding the league that he is an All Star-level player — and that the Yankees would have been unwise to trade him prior to this season to make way for prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza.
In the Yankees’ 4-2, series-clinching win over the Phillies on Wednesday, Torres’ three hits included a double and two runs batted in. He also stole two bases.
Through the first six games of the season, Torres has been the Yanks’ most productive player, batting .421, with a 1.349 OPS and two homers. Last season, he stole 10 bases. Since Opening Day this year, he has swiped five, taking full advantage of the new rules and bigger bases.
Volpe showed in spring training why he is an exciting prospect but is 2-for-17 (.176) in the first week of the season. Although that is a meaningless sample size and tells nothing about Volpe’s future, it’s also true that a team with championship aspirations can’t afford to rely too heavily on rookies who need time to adjust to the league — ideally, not even for a week or two. They need to win games.
For the moment, the Yankees can carry Volpe. Yo-yoing him back and forth from the big leagues to Triple-A could cause its own issues with his development. But the notion that the team can clear payroll and roster space by moving Torres places an overemphasis on unproven players, and sacrifices too much offense from Torres.
Watching Torres play over the years, one’s focus often drifts to the holes in his game, the occasional inattention to detail, the unfair expectations with which any hyped prospect begins his career. It’s easy to think about what Torres is not.
But here’s what he is: a 26-year-old, two-time All Star who has exceeded 20 home runs in three seasons. A player who hit his 100th career homer this week, making him the seventh-youngest in franchise history to reach that milestone. Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Don Mattingly, Joe Pepitone and Bobby Murcer are the only ones ahead of him.
Torres is also a middle-of-the-order bat that the 2023 Yankees cannot afford to lose.
“I feel really comfortable every at-bat,” Torres said. “I feel like I’ve got really good patience at the plate right now.”
That focused approach follows a slow drift in which Torres seemed to slip from his position as a core member of the team. Upon reporting to Tampa this February, Torres was asked if the Yankees had engaged him in contract extension talks.
“I wish,” he lamented.
A little more than a year ago, Hal Steinbrenner publicly identified Volpe and Peraza as the middle infield of the future — when Torres was 25 years old. Then, on Opening Day of 2022, Torres was on the bench while DJ LeMahieu played second base. But was that the beginning of the end, or a motivational strategy by Boone, his coaching staff and the front office?
After all, this was a leadership group that saw Torres return for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season out of shape — right after being anointed the next Yankee shortstop. Perhaps it was time for a different approach.
The makeup of the infield could change again before the Yankees play another game. If Josh Donaldson needs to go on the injured list after tweaking his hamstring Wednesday, the team could recall pitcher Jhony Brito from Triple-A to start in Baltimore this weekend. Or they could consider Peraza, the only other infielder on the 40-man roster. Whenever Peraza arrives, Aaron Boone and his staff will need to discuss the pros and cons of moving Volpe off shortstop to accommodate Peraza, who is a slightly superior defender at that position. Or they could keep Volpe at short for the sake of consistency.
One element is settled, at least for the near future: No one is taking Torres out of the equation, not the way he is playing.
“Hopefully,” Boone said, “We’re seeing a guy who is really starting to enter the prime of his career as a young man.”
It’s easy to forget how young Torres still is. Now an underrated former All-Star, he might yet have something to say about that Yankee middle infield of the future.
Source: Yahoo Sports