Assessing the ceiling of Yankees’ shortstop Gleyber Torres: how much better can he get?

Andres Chavez
New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres
Oct 15, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) follows through on a swing for a solo home run during the eighth inning in game three of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Baby Bombers have been making headlines because of their play since 2016. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino.. you name them. One of them, though, got very good at a very young age, and may still have room for improvement as he gets more MLB experience: Gleyber Torres is the present and the future of the New York Yankees.

Last season, he did very rare things for a 22-year-old. Now 23, the question remains: how much untapped potential does he have given that he hit 38 home runs and had a 125 wRC+ in 2019? The answer is short: a lot.

As that 125 wRC+ indicates, his offensive production was 25 percent better than his peers. However, if you consider that he ran wRC+ of 138 in Double-A in 2017, 145 in Triple-A in the same year, and even 151 in the same level a year later (all of them in relatively small sample sizes, though) we know he is capable of doing even more damage.

Yes, Gleyber hit 38 homers, knocked in 90 runs and scored 96 in 2019. But if you look closer, his .278/.337/.535 is still not elite territory, especially in the average and OBP departments. But don’t panic! He has done it before.

The Yankees would be ecstatic with some improvements in key areas

The Yankees’ shortstop has hit .290 or higher in several stops through the minors, but since there is some swing and miss to his game, it is more likely that he settles as a .280-.285 batter. He needs to hit the ball hard with more frequency, though: his average exit velocity (49th percentile) and hard-hit rate (33rd percentile) last season were rather pedestrian.

I think Torres will show his biggest improvement in the walks department. Last year, he had a 7.9 BB%, which limited his OBP to a rather ordinary .337.

If you look at his Fangraphs’ stats page here, you will see that Torres, in the minor leagues, routinely posted 10.0+ BB% in his career. Once he gets used to big league pitchers, his BB% will probably go up, which will increment his OBP, his OPS, and his overall production.

The Yankees should be ecstatic that a player that only hit 10 homers in one minor league season (11 in 2016) averaged 31 in his first two years in The Show. Last season he hit 38, but he did it in only 144 games.

Another area in which he can, and should, show significant improvement is his defense. His range doesn’t seem to be anything to write home about, but he can get the job done. He needs to limit errors (he committed 11 in 77 games at short and nine in 65 games at second last year).

For all his contributions in 2019, Torres finished with a 3.6 fWAR, away from the league leaders. If he wants to increase that numbers, he should add to his average and OBP while improving his defense. At 23 years old, the Yankees are betting he is more than capable of doing that.