Amidst uncertainty, Gleyber Torres is taking care of business

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Despite constant rumors, Torres is finally seeing a return to his 2019 form.

Gleyber Torres has been the subject of trade/extension rumors for much of his Yankee tenure. Those have only increased in frequency this year, what with Torres himself nearing free agency, and with the Yankees crumbling around him and falling out of the playoff race. Because of that, his excellent second-half body of work in the face of uncertainty has gone slightly under the radar, and deserves some plaudits. Putting all future considerations aside (we’ll have a whole offseason to discuss possible extension and trade ideas), let’s examine Torres’ offensive resurgence, one of the few bright spots throughout the second half of 2023, electric rookies notwithstanding.

Esteban wrote about his home run against Tarik Skubal, representing Torres at his best. That authoritative pull power has eluded him since 2019 but is in ample supply this season. His spray chart is balanced but those pulled home runs are in big boy territory.

He’s been pretty consistently solid all year with a 105 wRC+ in the first half, but is at a new level since July. Above league average has always been the expectation for Torres, the tricky part was how much above league average he’d settle on.

He’s been healthy all season, a big step forward, and his 25 home runs are the most since his oft-discussed 2019 campaign in which he went deep 38 times. The power has been fickle through Torres’ career, but it isn’t the only positive development in his offensive game this year.

His defensive metrics have regressed a bit, but let’s keep the big things big and the little things little. He’s rocking the lowest strikeout rate of his career at 14.2 percent in 584 plate appearances. In his excellent 2019 season, he struck out 21.4 percent of the time. It remains to be seen if cutting his strikeout rate by a third is sustainable, but the sample size is getting bigger and bigger, and it’s certainly been a boon to his production to be putting the ball in play so consistently.

His blistering second half has brought his wRC+ up to 123 for the year. The offensive standards for second basemen are lower than most positions, and that’s allowed him to rack up 2.7 rWAR. If Torres can be a 3-4 WAR player consistently, he becomes more than a serviceable starter.

Post-All Star Break, his wRC+ is at a Judgian 155. He’s also batting .310 on top of the power numbers — he’s making both more consistent and harder contact, an encouraging sign for sustainability. His 46.3% hard-hit rate in the second half hints that this isn’t a fluke, but more of a fundamental improvement in who Torres is as a hitter. Torres’ success isn’t limited to platoon advantages, either — he’s well above-average against lefties and righties.

He’s built on his success, and in August posted a torrid 177 wRC+. Also of note, he has five stolen bases in his last 47 games. He’s getting on base and feeling froggy too.

2023 Torres is the one we expected on the heels of his impressive 2019 in his age-22 season. 2020 and 2021 was no doubt frustrating for Torres, but he kept at it and hasn’t taken the weight of the pinstripes lightly. Torres’ future is murky, and he’s admirably kept his head down and done the work regardless of the Yankees’ plan for him.

Whether he is traded or signs an extension will be revealed in due time. In the present, Torres is putting it all together at age-26, heading into what should be the fruitful prime years of his career.

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