It is safe to say that the New York Yankees have been on a tear ever since calling up their young phenom middle infielder, Gleyber Torres, on April 22nd, going 18-3 in that span. Not only that, but the top-ranked prospect in the Yankees farm system (4th in MLB’s Top 100 Pipeline) has been a major contributor to their success.
Perhaps the pinnacle of his early days on the team was his 3-run walk-off homer against Cleveland that landed in the Yankees bullpen a couple weeks ago. His gritty at-bats, Roberto Alomar impressions with the glove, and upbeat demeanor in the dugout appear to be factors as well.
Watch Gleyber Torres Walk It Off:
Torres, at first glance, seems to have an unsustainable BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) at .400, where league average this year is .295. The main culprit for this is usually luck, and thatâ€™s probably no different for Torres to a point.
His batting average on ground balls is .333, the same for fly balls, yet the league hits .238 and .225, respectively. If we were to adjust Torresâ€™ hit totals to league average on grounders and flyballs, we would be taking about 3 hits away and bringing his average down from .324 to .282. Out of his 23 hits, maybe a couple grounders were hit hard enough to sneak through, while one more bloop than normal landed where nobody was. He does have one infield hit, but thatâ€™s about what he should have, compared to what the rest of the league is doing. That is still very good.
However, not every player is bound by a league average BABIP. So far in 2018 hitters have about a 21% line drive rate, with a 43% ground ball rate, and the remaining 36% goes to flyballs â€“ which is all very typical. Torres, on the other hand, in his first 21 games as a major leaguer has managed a 30% line drive rate and just a 34% ground ball rate. Were he to have started in the bigs on opening day and managed to maintain those percentages, that would place him 6th in the league among all qualifiers in line drive rate and 7th lowest in ground ball rate. You know who else has LD%/GB% like that? Jose Altuve.
Even if we adjust his batting average on non-line drives to league average, he would still have a higher than normal BABIP of .351 because of his elevated line drive rate. Andâ€¦ AHEMâ€¦ Altuve currently has a .348 BABIP, with much closer to normal batting averages on grounders and fly balls. I should also mention that both playersâ€™ batting average on line drives are right at league average, at around .680.
Gleyberâ€™s approach is an aggressive one, swinging at 36% of pitches out of the zone. That isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing. Nolan Arenado, J.D. Martinez, and Altuve all have outside swing rates north of 30%, and they make it work. Obviously, this is a small sample size, but you wonâ€™t hear me complain if he winds up a comparable hitter to Altuve on a consistent basis.
Torres has been doing something that you donâ€™t see very often, and he deserves credit for it, small samples notwithstanding. I should also note that his pedigree and projections dictated that he would be hitting pretty much the way he has, albeit the fact that itâ€™s happening so soon is a pleasant surprise. But I digressâ€¦
While Torres has been very comparable to Altuve in both his approach and batted ball results, his non-cumulative offensive numbers have been in the same ballpark as well.
Hereâ€™s how Gleyber Torres and Jose Altuve match up in 2018 so far:
Torres: .324/.372/.493, 6.3% walk rate, 24.1% strikeout rate, .368 wOBA, 131 wRC+
Altuve: .309/.364/.414, 7.0% walk rate, 12.6% strikeout rate, .341 wOBA, 117 wRC+
Those numbers are pretty close, excluding the fact that Torres strikes out twice as much and hits for a little more power. Torresâ€™ advantage in power so far is reflected in his higher wRC+ as well.
Because defensive metrics are still a work in progress, I find them to be arbitrary. Especially this early in the season, so I’m not going to travel down that rabbit hole for now. Based on what we’ve seen Iâ€™m at least comfortable with declaring him to be a very good second baseman. And boy, is Gleyber fun to watch out there or what? The kid is everywhere.
Full disclosure, when I began working on this article the intent was not to create a side-by-side comparison of the two second baseman. During my research into his advanced analytics I noticed that Altuve’s name was consistently nearby on league rankings, so here we are. There is no way to know what the rest of the season holds for Torres, and same goes for the rest of his career, but when a 21 year old kid gets promoted to the Major Leagues and performs the way Gleyber has it is worth noting. Nice job, kid.