3 Reasons Why the Yankees Are Right to Be Patient With Gleyber Torres
While the World Baseball Classic (WBC) was certainly exciting for fans around the world, it will be looked at begrudgingly by New York Yankees fans, because it costed them their starting shortstop, Didi Gregorius. According to general manager Brian Cashman, the shortstop will be out for around six weeks with a shoulder injury he suffered while playing for the Netherlands in the WBC.
With Gregorius out, the Yankees will be losing a strong glove at an important position, as well as a lefty bat who broke out in the Bronx in 2016. He hit .276/.304/.447 with 20 home runs (11 more than his career high) and a 98 wRC+ (also a career-high). The really surprising part with Gregorius was his bat against left-handed pitching -- he hit .324/.361/.473 with a 126 wRC+ and a measly 7.5% strikeout rate. To find left-handed hitting that hits left-handed pitching like this is nigh impossible, and the loss of Gregorius will be felt in the Yankees lineup.
While it can be debated whether his breakout season of a year ago was sustainable moving forward, his all-around contributions will certainly be missed in the Bronx.
After the injury, droves of Yankees fans were calling for a relatively new Yankee's number to be summoned to the big: top prospect Gleyber Torres. The organization did not heed those calls, however, and optioned their blue-chip prospect to minor-league camp, where he is likely to start in Double-A Trenton.
While is this frustrating for some fans who want to see their uber-prospect make an impact in the majors, the Yankees are being incredibly smart by keeping him in the minors and cultivating his development. Here's why.
Not only is Gleyber Torres 20, he's a young 20. Torres was 19 when the Yankees traded for him, and he just celebrated his birthday in December.
While being 20 and debuting was common in the late-1800s, and really until the 1950's and 1960's, it is just not done very often anymore outside of some extreme examples. When it is done, it's rare to find much success as only five players have had league-average seasons (100 wRC+ or higher) since 1996.
All five of these players scale from very good (Heyward's 2016 notwithstanding) to elite, Hall-of-Fame caliber talents. Mike Trout (because who else?) had the best year for a 20-year old in MLB history, both offensively and defensively.
While most of these players had elite bats in their 20 year-old campaign, even the two league-average offensive players had the glove to be very strong contributors at their young age. It is important to note that current-Yankees infielder Starlin Castro had a 99 wRC+ at 20, just missing the cut -- he was much less valuable in terms of fWAR, however, with a 1.8 mark.
Despite the unbelievable numbers these players put up while being way below the average league age, perhaps more impressive is the rarity of it. Only five 20-year old players were offensively and defensively average or above in the last 20 years. You do not find 20-year-old players who come up and contribute every day -- it takes an especially special talent. While Torres is certainly talented, he has not shown the minor-league offense until very recently:
Torres, obviously, has not been bad in the minors -- he would not be considered the prospect he is if he struggled.
|Year||Level||Plate Appearances||Strikeout Rate||On-Base Percentage||wRC+|
|2016||Arizona Fall League||76||10.50%||0.513||218|
As you can see, it would be facetious to say that Torres has been bad -- in fact, he has been above-average in every level that he has seen extended playing time in despite being young for each level. However, despite that, he has never truly dominated any level offensively.
Now, his Arizona Fall League performance this offseason was a real eye-opener. He was the youngest player to do basically everything offensively en route to the 2016 Arizona Fall League MVP award, and it made him even that more adored by scouts.
I second what @JonathanMayo says -- bet Gleyber Torres is in top five of Top 100 when we redo the list in January. @Yankees https://t.co/c5vqXDxNUU
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) November 18, 2016
Torres followed that up with a torrid spring training, hitting .448/.469/.931 in 31 plate appearances before being optioned to minor-league camp. While those numbers certainly depict a player who is ready for the show, the sample size is small opposed to the rest of his career -- he has 107 plate appearances of tearing the cover off the ball, as opposed to 1,244 plate appearances of just above-average offense.
It is certainly possible that he turned the corner and took that step to stardom, but the Yankees likely want to make sure by seeing if he can continue to destroy the baseball for the Trenton Thunder -- and that is a smart thing.
No Need to Rush
When the Yankees traded away basically everyone of value at last season's deadline, they were committing to a rebuild for the first time in a couple of decades. They took a middling minor league system and made it an elite one, but with that comes with patience.
In order for the rebuild to work, the players they acquired have to have adequate time to develop -- if Torres did take that next step, and he demolishes Double-A, then he will be called up in due time. However, if he gets called-up too quickly and gets exposed, it could hurt his development.
On top of that, Gregorius is not hurt for the season; being out a month and a half to two months hurts the Yankees, but he is likely the starter when he comes back. When the Yankees call up Torres, or any other top prospect, it'll probably be for good, not for six weeks.
Also, the Bronx Bombers have other players -- specifically Tyler Wade, who the Yankees have stated they want to be their super-utility man -- capable of filling in and holding down a major-league job until Gregorius gets healthy.
While the idea of one of the best prospects in baseball making his debut is tantalizing, there are good reasons to keep Gleyber Torres in the minors rather than rushing him to the Bronx. His time is coming soon, but it is not his time just yet.