Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, 2017 will be remembered as a stepping stone for the Yankees. They’ve incorporated so much high-end youth into the roster this year. Luis Severino is emerging as a top of the rotation starter and both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have established themselves as middle of the order hitters. Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery have become key contributors as well.
Others highly touted youngsters like Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade have made their big league debuts this summer and will get more opportunities going forward. One prospect we haven’t (and won’t) see this season is Gleyber Torres, who MLB.com and Baseball America currently rank as one of the two best prospects in the minors. Torres blew out his non-throwing elbow sliding into home plate in June and needed Tommy John surgery. What a dumb fluke injury.
Torres, who won’t turn 21 until December, hit .287/.383/.480 (141 wRC+) with 14 doubles and seven home runs in 235 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year before hurting his elbow. He’d never played above High-A prior to this season, yet he was quickly promoted from Double-A to Triple-A this year because he adjusted so well. A 20-year-old kid doing what he did this year is pretty damn impressive. Impressive and rare.
Had he not gotten hurt, chances are Torres would be in the big leagues right now. He was moving that quickly and it seemed the Yankees were preparing him for a big league call-up by moving him around the infield. Think about the playing time opportunities that have existed the last few weeks:
- Starlin Castro has spent two stints on the disabled list with hamstring problems. He’s played in only six of the team’s last 45 games. Torres could have stepped right in to play second base.
- First base has been a black hole most of the season. The Yankees could’ve called up Torres, played him at third, and moved Chase Headley to first. Maybe that means no Todd Frazier trade?
- Matt Holliday has been ineffective and/or hurt since mid-June. Holliday’s playing time could have been scaled back in favor of Torres, or, at the very least, Gleyber could have been part of the DH rotation.
Earlier this season, when Didi Gregorius was on the disabled list with his shoulder injury, I thought the Yankees did the right thing having Torres start the year in Triple-A. He’d not yet played above High-A at the time and the last thing you want to do with a prospect this talented is rush him before he’s ready. That could do more harm than good. As I’ve said, the Gregorius injury didn’t make Torres more big league ready.
Midseason is a different story. Gleyber showed he could handle Double-A and Triple-A, and he worked hard on his defense at new positions. Perhaps he wasn’t MLB ready the day he hurt his elbow, but it sure felt like he would’ve been shortly thereafter. The Yankees have had more than a few lineup openings these last few weeks and Torres has been unavailable to fill them because of the injury. Talk about terrible timing, huh?
Now, who’s to say Torres would’ve come up and had an immediate impact a la Sanchez last season? Maybe he would’ve struggled out of the gate like Judge. ZiPS projected Torres for a .221/.279/.344 (73 OPS+) batting line at the MLB level coming into the season, so the completely objective computer system wasn’t convinced he could be a difference-maker right out of the gate. But who knows. Crazy talented players like Torres can do special things early in their careers.
The Yankees have survived all their injuries and their general lack of first base production to this point and remain very much in the postseason race. They have slipped in the standings though, going from first place in the AL East to trying to hang on to a wild card spot, and a healthy Torres could have made a difference these last few weeks. He hasn’t played an MLB get yet and already the Yankees miss him. If nothing else, Gleyber has missed out on some big league time this year, which would’ve helped prepare him for next season.