For many, may reasons, 2019 seems a long time ago. On a personal level, it’s the last time I had only one kid. On a global scale, it’s the last ‘normal’ year we had. And on from a baseball perspective, it’s the last time we felt confident about Gleyber Torres.
That was the year he blasted 38 home runs and eventually drove Gary Thorne to exasperation. While he’d been successful before that, 2019 was Gleyber’s real coming out party and our expectations for him grew. Then 2020 happened. Okay, fine, whatever. Last season was an anomaly to rule all anomalies and Torres was, seemingly, greatly affected by the pandemic. 2021 was a perfect time for him to rebound, especially considering the investment the Yankees put in him. By not trading for Francisco Lindor, for example, they doubled down on Torres as their shortstop. And then he fell on his face.
His power seemingly gone, he slugged just .308 (!) in the first half of the season, lower than his .326 OBP. His defense was also an issue: consistently sketchy at best and downright bad at worst. And as we see what’s unfolded over 2020-21 with Gleyber, I can’t help but think back to another young middle infielder who dealt with early-career struggles: Robinson Cano.
After helping invigorate the 2005 Yankees with his call up, Cano won his first Silver Slugger in 2006 and played well in 2007. Then in the first half of 2008, he seemingly forgot how to hit. Luckily for him and the Yankees, he rebounded in the second half and went on to have a stellar career…and get suspended for PEDs twice, but that’s not the point. The point is that, even if they’re different players, maybe Torres can take a page out of Cano’s book.
To his credit, and with a small sample size caveat, Gleyber is already working his way towards that. Since coming back from the All Star break, he’s hitting .276 with a .474 SLG. The challenge this time will be maintaining that level of play. Throughout 2021, he’s had great stretches, brilliant flashes that he’s been unable to sustain over the long term.
If he can not only turn the corner but stay on the new street, avoiding the traps of alleyways, it will benefit him and the Yankees as they look to push into playoff position. The last season-plus has given both fans and the organization reason to question Torres both in the present and going forward. With a strong shortstop free agent class in the offing, it’s incumbent upon Gleyber to re-prove himself as a reliable hitter to justify the Yankees’ faith in him.