TORONTO — Gleyber Torres looks like, well, Gleyber Torres. Not the Gleyber Torres the Yankees fretted about over the previous two seasons. He looks nothing like the kid that was struggling to make routine plays at shortstop and taking those struggles to the plate. No. Torres looks more like the 2018-19 version of himself, playing second base with confidence that carries over to the batter’s box.
Torres hit two line-drive doubles Friday night and is hitting .327/.400/.673 with 11 runs scored, five doubles, four home runs and seven RBI over his last 14 games.
“It’s probably taking a little bit of pressure off of him overall, which probably has helped his offense a little bit, although probably not to the degree that maybe the narrative might suggest,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Torres relaxing now that he is playing second base rather than shortstop. “He’s a really good offensive player and he’s made some quality adjustments that have gotten him to this point.”
The difference between Torres at shortstop and second base is pretty stark. Torres went into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Center with three errors in 193 chances. He has 7 defensive runs saved at second base, which is a huge swing compared to the -10 defensive runs saved he had last season at shortstop, according to FanGraphs. He committed 18 errors at shortstop last season, eight fielding and 10 throwing.
“Well, shortstop is a tougher position,” Boone said. “To be a big-league shortstop, it’s akin to being a great cornerback. It’s a premium position that not many people can play at a high level at this level. I think probably [Torres’] skillset lines up a little bit more for second base.”
“I still think [Torres] has a skillset in a pinch to go over there [to shortstop] because he has arm strength and he’s got good hands,” Boone continued. “Hopefully at some point we’ll get him over there to keep that option going, but I think he’s played outstanding this year and obviously he’s swung the bat really well for us.”
The Yankees ended the Torres at shortstop experiment on Sept. 13 and almost immediately saw him begin the transformation back to his old self. At the end of the season, GM Brian Cashman made it clear that he was in the market to land an everyday shortstop, ending speculation about Torres at the position. They have found a nice, solid, athletic stopgap at the position in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who they traded for this spring. Kiner-Falefa can handle the position until one of the Yankees’ top prospects — Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe — are ready.
Torres had started out as a shortstop in baseball and was one of the most highly-touted shortstop prospects as a minor leaguer. After the switch, however, Torres accepted that he was better off at second base.
Torres’ time as the Yankees’ starting shortstop coincided with his worst offensive struggles. After hitting 38 homers and slashing .278/.337/.535 in 2019, Torres hit just 12 home runs in the 169 games he played over the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
It’s not just the switch of positions though.
Torres was embarrassed by his last two years and that began a process of rediscovery at the plate.
He headed straight to Tampa last winter and immediately got to work with new hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who was still the minor league hitting coordinator at the time. He watched videos of his swing his in 2018-19 and he told Lawson that he just wanted to be like that again.
Torres went into Saturday’s game hitting .254/.304/.497 with an .801 OPS. He has 12 home runs in 58 games. A dramatic improvement is in how many balls he is hitting hard now, his Hard Hit percentage is up from 35.7% in 2021 to 48.4% this season. He’s barreling the ball more, as his Barrel percentage is up from 7.8 % to 11.1 %.
So far, this season he is looking more like that 2018-19 version of himself.