Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Back in spring training, Yankees bigwigs noticed that Gleyber Torres was "really launching the ball," as GM Brian Cashman puts it. But not even the most optimistic Torres observers expected the infielder's power surge this season.
Entering Thursday's doubleheader in Detroit, Torres has 36 home runs, the most of any middle infielder in baseball. But slugging is only part of what's, ahem, launched the 22-year-old into the conversation about the best young stars in baseball.
"He's having a tremendous year," Cashman said. "Going in, people were curious and understandably so. Was there going to be a sophomore jinx? That was speculated on by fans and media alike.
"I think he's answered in a resounding way. And he's displayed his versatility, too. His sophomore season started with him having to fill in for Didi (Gregorius) at shortstop and then swing over to second and, at the same time, still not miss a beat, still thrive with a much better year than last year. It's pretty impressive."
So put Torres among young studs such as Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Rafael Devers, at least. Cashman says think bigger.
"I don't look at things through those lenses, so it's hard to answer, but forgetting about just the better young players in the game, he belongs in the conversation about some of the better players, period," Cashman said.
It's not just Cashman who's wowed, either. Opponents are raving, too.
In a text message, we asked an opposing scout, essentially, "What do you think about Gleyber Torres this season?" OK, maybe it wasn't exactly an artfully-worded query.
The reply was quick. "Is that a real question?" the scout sent back. "LOL."
Point taken. Another scout, asked if Torres rates alongside the likes of Acuna, Soto and Devers, said: "Those are good comparisons. He's legitimate. Look up the numbers he's put up. It's not projection. It's real numbers."
Entering Thursday, Torres was batting .287 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .550 slugging percentage. He also has 24 doubles and 85 RBI. He's three shy of Alfonso Soriano's Yankee home run record for a middle infielder, set in 2002. Torres has even trimmed his strikeouts -- he fanned in 25.2 percent of at-bats as a rookie; this year, it's 20.6 percent. The MLB average is 22.8.
Perhaps most importantly in this weird year of Yankee injuries, he's remained healthy and appeared in 133 games.
And that's allowed him to do things that have him mentioned in the same breath as Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as he duplicates feats they accomplished at his age. Torres, a two-time All-Star, joins Mantle and DiMaggio as the only Yankees to go to multiple Midsummer Classics before turning 23. The only two Yankees to have a 30-homer season before age 23 are Torres and DiMaggio.
Torres is also only the second Yankee to have more than one game in the same season in which he went 4-for-4 including two homers. The other? Only Lou Gehrig.
Stats aren't the only thing Torres shares with iconic Yankees. Cashman says he's got the "slow heartbeat" that let other pinstriped stars thrive under pressure.
"Derek Jeter clearly possessed that and Gleyber definitely has that tool," Cashman said. "He does not allow the situation to become too big."
Torres, who turns 23 on Dec. 13, was considered a mega-prospect before he signed with the Cubs in 2013 as an international free agent out of Venezuela. The Yankees coveted him then, too.
Three years later, the Cubs mortgaged Torres as part of the trade to get Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees for a run to their first World Series title in 108 years. After the trade was agreed upon, Cashman called Donny Rowland, the Yankees' director of international scouting, and exclaimed, "Donny, we got him!"
"We were fortunate to work through something with Theo Epstein," Cashman added. "He got his payoff on the front end and we're getting ours now."
But Torres only hit 24 homers in 373 games in the minor leagues. As a rookie in 2018, Torres hit that many in 123 games. And now this. Some projections had him as someone who could hit 15-20 homers per season regularly.
Maybe Torres just blossomed. Or perhaps he's simply swept up in this season's homer bonanza across baseball -- the all-time record for total home runs in a season fell Wednesday night with much of September left to play.
"You knew he was going to be a solid Major League player," the second scout said. "You never can predict power numbers like we're seeing. Never know for sure about a player until he's at the Major League level."
Here's an interesting list: There are five active players who have hit more home runs in an age 20-22 season than the 36 Torres has this year. Via the Play Index on Baseball Reference, they are Bryce Harper (42 in 2015 at 22), Cody Bellinger (39 in 2017 at 21), Acuna (38 in 2019 at 21), Giancarlo Stanton (37 in 2012 at 22) and Albert Pujols (37 in 2001 at 21). Mike Trout hit 36 home runs in 2014 when he was 22 and then hit 41 homers the next year.
No one is saying Torres is Trout or any of the other guys. It's just more evidence of his monster year and, perhaps, of his growing regard in the game.
And who knows what Torres can become?
"He's a special player," Cashman said. "He wants to be great."