Gleyber Torres has an opportunity to shine brightly with the New York Yankees’ roster depleted by injury after injury.
The second-year second baseman was the star of Thursday’s 8-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Torres had his first career four-hit game, slugging two home runs along with a double and a single. Torres also drove in four of the Yankees’ eight runs.
And just like Jabba the Hutt at an all-you-can-eat buffet, this Yankees fan wants more. Torres is such a great hitter, his continuing to succeed at bat could help New York shake off this early slump and put him in the spotlight even more.
After all, with all of the Yankees’ injuries, does he really have a choice?
In terms of pure contact hitting skills, Gleyber Torres was probably the best rookie the Yankees had since Derek Jeter. Not to discount Aaron Judge’s rookie campaign, when he held home run court 52 times, but Torres’ was different.
Rather than launch moonshot after moonshot, Torres showed a knack for situational hitting. No matter what the count, he rarely broke. Save for a three-plus week stretch during which he batted an awful .144, Torres became one of baseball’s most intriguing rookies.
Just when teams were expecting a single up the middle, Torres would lace a double to the gap in right. When teams then prepared for the double, Torres would launch a ball out of the park and into orbit.
He finished the year with a line of .271/.340/.480, along with 22 home runs and 71 RBI.
That player is now a year older at 22. Like a fine wine, Torres will only get better with age.
And now, early in the 2019 season, that time starts now. If Gleyber Torres can keep up this pace while his teammates recover, the Yankees may finally perform as advertised.
Calling Dr. Hit
Some may not realize just how much Torres’ breakout game means to the Yankees. Prior to that 8-4 victory, New York had scored just 13 combined runs in its previous five games. Giancarlo Stanton straining his biceps and Miguel Andujar hurting his shoulder depleted the lineup of power.
To add insult to injury, Aaron Judge has yet to announce home run court is in session. Some Yankees fans would rather have that type of power outage in their house on Opening Day!
Enter Torres who, in just one game, raised his batting average from .250 to .357. Even more significant, this four-hit game came after one in which he struck out three times and was clearly trying to smack the cover off the ball.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the poise every Yankees player needs to copy. Rather than go for the big swing when trailing in a game, focus more on extending the inning. With runners on base and nobody out, realize a single is just as significant as a home run.
Simply put, with 11 players on the injured list and the lineup smarting, this is the perfect time for Torres to lead by example. If his teammates can adopt his level of focus, the team as a whole will change.
Still room for improvement
But that doesn’t mean Gleyber Torres can afford to be complacent. Though he finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, his flaws were out and about in 2018.
He was a great overall hitter, but also had a strikeout rate (K%) of 25.2 percent. Had a hip injury not robbed him of two-and-a-half weeks’ worth of plate appearances, that would have ranked 20th in MLB. That’s not an awful number, but Torres did indeed have issues with strikeouts last year, whiffing 122 times.
And Torres’ strikeout woes can be linked to his O-Swing%, or percentage of swings at pitches out of the strike zone. He posted an O-Swing% of 34.4 percent, so just over a third of his swings were out of the zone. Next to a K% of 25.2 percent, it suddenly all makes sense.
Moreover, early on, Torres’ K% stands at 20.7 percent. It’s still early and the sample size is way too small, but consider this. Torres’ early walk rate (BB%) is only at 3.4 percent, down from 8.7 percent last year.
Gleyber Torres can indeed shine as the Yankees’ savior while Stanton, Andujar, Aaron Hicks, and others recover, but it starts with him building off of his great game.
Mind you, none of this is to discount what Gleyber Torres did in Baltimore on Thursday. Not only did he have a great game, but he also entered history. He became the youngest Yankee since Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio to have a four-hit, three extra-base hit game.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) April 4, 2019
The point, rather, is Gleyber Torres has an opportunity to become even more of a star for the Yankees. The Judge & Stanton Home Run Hoedown is off the air for a short while, so Torres’ quick hands are needed.
Thursday was just a preview of what could be, the versatile hitter defined by a bag of tricks reminiscent of Lance Burton. The swift swing which turns inside out for a single before powering out for a long homer.
The early 2019 season belongs to Gleyber Torres. If he can get a hot streak going, the Yankees’ early season struggles could soon become a distant memory.