In lieu of our traditional player-by-player season previews, we’re making a change this year. Instead, we’re going to focus on a number of topics that will be team storylines all season long. Today, we kick off this series with the possibility of 2022 being Gleyber Torres’ last chance to stick in pinstripes.
“Gleyber Torres is 22 years old”, we all gleefully reminded the rest of the universe as he burst on to the scene in 2018 and 2019. Those were the good old days. Torres was a budding superstar and a franchise cornerstone. Oh, how the tables have turned.
Now, Torres enters 2022 without any certainty of an everyday role. He’s no longer the shortstop after the team pulled the plug on that late last season. He’s no sure thing at second base this year, either. The amount of time he gets at the keystone will be contingent on his bat. We already know that DJ LeMahieu is a far better defensive option at second, but if Torres shows any semblance of his old self, he’ll get plenty of run at the position. If not, not only will he lose playing time to LeMahieu, but he may also lose his job in New York.
As dire as I made things sound for Torres, not all hope is lost. It’s become cliché to say that not all progress is linear, but this very well could be the case for the now 25 year old second baseman. Remember, he was a terrific prospect. He’s already had plenty of big league success, even though the juiced ball played a part. Additionally, it’s not like he was a total zero over the last two years. He still showed flashes of brilliance in short spurts.
Torres hit .305/.350/.445 (116 wRC+) over the last two months of 2021. In September 2020, Torres batted .259/.377/.466 (134 wRC+). Point is: his skill at the plate hasn’t totally evaded him. Whether or not he can get to it over a long season remains to be seen. However, if it makes you feel any better, various projection systems still like Torres’ bat. ZiPS thinks he’ll post a 108 wRC+ this season. Steamer is more optimistic at 118 wRC+, while PECOTA projects a 109 DRC+.
The Yankees gave Torres plenty of leeway over the last two years, but that’s no longer the case. The flashes of offensive excellence can’t wait until the end of 2022. Torres needs to be consistent from the jump. The team has alternatives, whether on the current roster (LeMahieu) or down on the farm (Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, among others). It’s a lot easier for the Yankees to fall back on any of those guys than, say, Tyler Wade.
Technically, the Yankees don’t have to make a decision on Torres’ future with the organization this season. He’s under team control through 2024. That said, if Gleyber doesn’t right the ship now, it may be time for a change of scenery. The Yankees won’t be able to recoup much via trade, but it would be better to get scraps than to have this evolve into another Miguel Andújar scenario. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.
This year will likely be make or break for Torres, at least in terms of his career with the Yankees. A resurgence would give the team a terrific problem to have: too many good and young candidates to play second base over the long haul. On the flip side, another dud very likely would be his ticket out of New York.