It wasn’t so long ago when the New York Yankees were sellers at the trade deadline. In July of 2016, the Yanks traded Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren. They also landed two other prospects, now Toronto Blue Jay Billy Mckinney and Rashad Crawford. Crawford is still in the Yankees’ farm system.
The Yankees also moved Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, among others. Justus Sheffield is currently a Seattle Mariner and Clint Frazier is a victim of the Yankees’ stacked outfield, amongst other things.
Out of those trades, Gleyber Torres is the only true gem. Seeing as the Yankees basically loaned Chapman to the Cubs for two months makes the deal even more of a slam dunk. It also helps that Gleyber Torres is living up to the phenom hype that surrounded him in 2016.
Cashman said this about Torres after acquiring him: “the primary piece, I think the industry recognizes, is Gleyber Torres. He’s the equivalent of a first-born, is how I would determine it. He’s a high-level prospect that’s extremely valuable within the industry.” Now we know why.
Torres burst onto the scene in his rookie year in 2018, slashing .271/.340/.481 with 24 home runs and 77 RBI in 484 plate appearances. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year race behind the winner, Shohei Ohtani, and his fellow teammate Miguel Andujar.
In that same year, Torres posted a 120 WRC+, .209 ISO, and .349 wOBA. In every category, Torres was in the “great” or “above average” range, according to FanGraphs. Torres’ preseason ranking as the second-best prospect in baseball heading into the 2017 season was obviously a good one. Still, nobody can expect a rookie to come up and produce the way he did.
What makes his rookie season even more impressive is that he has improved across the board from 2018 to 2019. So far in 2019 Torres is slashing .295/.362/.517 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI in 390 plate appearances. He’s projected to finish the season with 30 home runs and 86 RBI, according to FanGraphs’ Steamer projections. He’s also accrued a 2.7 WAR to this point of the season, already passing his 2018 total of 1.9, and he is projected to finish with 4 WAR.
As for ISO, WRC+ and wOBA Torres have also improved. He has bumped up in each respective category with a 129 wRC+, .366 wOBA and a .223 ISO. He’s on a great trajectory right now, there’s no denying that. But what about some more peripheral statistics?
Torres has improved his BB% from 8.7% to 9.7% and has reduced his K% from 25.2% to 21.8% in 2019. Torres has also increased his Hard Hit % on both fastballs and offspeed pitches. On Hard Hit % he is up to 46.6% from 41.6% in 2018 on fastballs and up to 37.9% from 30.9% on offspeed pitches. He is, nonetheless, not hitting curveballs hard as often. He is down to a 25% hard-hit % from 29.7% in 2018.
Upon further review, not much has changed in the way Gleyber is hitting. Other than the fact that he is striking out significantly less and walking a bit more, there is not much more to it. That’s always a good combination. As for other batted ball statistics, there isn’t much of a difference. But because he had such a good 2018, that isn’t such a bad thing.
Torres isn’t set to slow down at all over the course of the next two years. According to FanGraphs’ three-year ZIPS projections, Torres is set to be a 4.2 WAR player in 2020 and a 4.6 WAR player in 2021. That, without a doubt, is something to be excited about considering he is a 4 WAR player even though his 2019 ZIPS projection was 3 WAR.
There is one thing to note, nonetheless. Gleyber is getting a bit lucky this season. Not hugely lucky, but definitely a bit more than what is sustainable. His BABIP currently stands at .335, that’s higher than his 2018 BABIP of .321. Usually, Major League hitters sit at around a .300 BABIP.
But even Steamer projections think Gleyber will sit at around a .320 BABIP for the remainder of the season. That means his average will certainly dip as the season progresses, but it’s still a high BABIP. We can probably expect Gleyber to be more of a .275 hitter the rest of the way than the .300 hitter he has been to this point.
The area where Gleyber has probably improved the most, aside from increased power and plate discipline, is on defense. Last season Gleyber finished with a -7.9 defensive WAR as he adjusted to more time at second base. With didi out, he was able to play more shortstop this season, but it’s still encouraging to see that he is improving defensively.
His UZR rating in 2018 was a sultry -7.7, so far in 2019 it is at -1.6. His UZR/150 last season was -17 whereas this season it is -12. That’s still not great by any means, but it is an improvement.
Rounding it Out
In thinking about the trade deadline’s of recent years for the Yankees, it’s hard not to remember the Yankees’ acquiring Torres. His progression from 2018 to 2019 in terms of his plate discipline and power at the plate is nothing short of encouraging. At just 22 years of age and four years of team control for the Yankees, the Gleyber Torres acquisition could go down as one of the all-time trade deadline heists. We’ll just have to wait and see if his progression continues, but there’s no reason to think that it won’t.