Last season, the New York Yankees boomed onto the scene with utter dominance and power. After reaching 100 wins in 2018, the Yankees one-upped their impressive campaign from the year before by posting 103 in 2019, matching the same exact record they attained a decade ago when they won their 27th World Series Title in 2009. Although it might not seem any different, the Yankees have an even better team entering a shortened 60-game 2020 season, with All-Star talent in nearly every position. With a slew of young, bright stars shaping the face of their new franchise, the Yankees have produced a formula for success that they intend to sustain for years to come.
Naturally, this success has been fueled by the collective effort, contribution and execution from the entire team as a whole. But that being said, the Yankees have a handful of remarkable players that have demonstrated just how high of a level they can play at on a regular basis. At the forefront of this group, is the Yankees new franchise shortstop, Gleyber Torres. Posting good numbers his rookie season where he hit .271 with 24 HRs and 77 RBIs, Torres elevated his level of play substantially in 2019, collecting 38 HRs, 90 RBIs, and hitting .278 with a .535 slugging percentage (ESPN). It was generally well known throughout the league that the youngster could hit the ball well; but to see such power on display, was utterly jaw-dropping. If you aren’t convinced, just ask any Baltimore Orioles fan: Torres slapped 13 of his 38 HRs last season against Baltimore, crushing many of them in the process (ESPN).
However, the 2020 season surely makes for a strange and unusual challenge for players to adjust to and prepare for, even those as good as Torres. With COVID-19 bringing spring training to a screeching halt, players had to quickly adapt their training routines and figure out ways to stay in shape while quarantining. And for Torres, it’s hard to gauge how sharp he will be defensively when the season gets back under way. Don’t forget that Torres has led the team in errors for back-to-back seasons, logging 17 in 2018 and then 20 in 2019 (ESPN). On top of that, Torres had two big errors over the postseason, further exposing a flaw in his game that needs to improve if he intends to generate the same impact he had last season (ESPN).
Furthermore, the Yankees put together a team that has the dauntingly high expectations to make the World Series this year, even though this season remains to be wildly different. After acquiring Cy Young nominee Gerrit Cole this offseason to bolster their starting rotation, the Yankees really don’t have much of an excuse to falter or struggle offensively. And what remains to be the greatest cause of concern for Torres, is that if you look at the Yankees 60-game schedule, a third of their games will be against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays, two teams Torres really struggled against last season.
When facing Toronto, Torres hit a feeble .217 average with a .333 OBP along with only 10 hits and a total of 11 strikeouts (ESPN). But against Tampa Bay, Torres struggled, even more, posting a meager .207 average with a very low .292 OBP accompanied by 20 strikeouts and only 12 hits in 58 at-bats (ESPN). Although Torres has a lot more help offensively this season with the return of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees are counting on him to continue to dominate at the plate just like he did last year. And with Torres being still so young, he might have a hard time grappling with the pressure to keep up with the pace and demand to perform at such a high level on a daily basis, particularly against these two division rivals.
When all is said and done, the odds for Torres to replicate the incredible 2019 campaign he had, remain to be low. With a season that’s generally 162 games long now being cut down to only 60, the margin for error is immensely smaller. Hitters usually have the opportunity to bounce back from any slumps they might find themselves in. But this season, that’s simply not the case, and this new demand for flawless baseball is arguably Torres’s biggest test yet.
Despite roaring onto the scene last year, proving just how dangerous of a hitter he can be and how athletic he is defensively, Torres has to show that he can be even better this year. And considering their competition and shortened season, that doesn’t seem very likely. Think about it this way for example: After coming off a monstrous rookie season for the New York Mets last year, it’s very unlikely that Pete Alonso is going to pull off a similar feat this year, and that goes for Torres as well. It’s fair to expect Torres to have a good season because the talent and versatility is all there. But 2020 will be a whole lot different for Gleyber Torres and will present him with a learning experience that he might struggle to endure and overcome.