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All eyes on Torres in Yanks' keystone competition

Top prospect among candidates for second-base job as camp starts
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Yankees were preparing to set their 2017 Opening Day roster, several members of the coaching staff spoke in favor of promoting Gleyber Torres to the big leagues, even though the infielder had yet to play above Class A.

General manager Brian Cashman resisted the temptation to accelerate Torres' progression then, preferring to dispatch the highly-touted infielder to Double-A. Torres' name is likely to come up in closed-door discussions again this spring, as he vies to open the season as the starting second baseman.

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Yankees were preparing to set their 2017 Opening Day roster, several members of the coaching staff spoke in favor of promoting Gleyber Torres to the big leagues, even though the infielder had yet to play above Class A.

General manager Brian Cashman resisted the temptation to accelerate Torres' progression then, preferring to dispatch the highly-touted infielder to Double-A. Torres' name is likely to come up in closed-door discussions again this spring, as he vies to open the season as the starting second baseman.

Torres, 21, is the Yankees' top-rated prospect and the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He was on track to appear in the Majors last year before sustaining a season-ending injury to his left (non-throwing) elbow, which required Tommy John surgery.

"Every player doesn't want an injury, surgery, nothing like that," Torres said. "In baseball, everything happens for a reason. I'll make sure this year to take care, play hard and enjoy every opportunity."

Video: Yankees duo ready for Spring Training to begin

In addition to Torres, the Yankees have assembled a host of competitors for the second-base job, which was vacated when Starlin Castro went to the Marlins as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade. Cashman has listed Thairo Estrada, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade as internal candidates.

Estrada turns 22 later this month and would be making the jump from Double-A, where he hit .301/.353/.392 in 122 games at Trenton, then posted an .811 OPS in 20 Arizona Fall League games. Reputed as one of the best defenders in the system, Estrada is rated New York's No. 16 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

Video: 2017 Arizona Fall League: Thairo Estrada

Torreyes was a consistent part of the team's success last year, particularly in April, when he filled in nicely for injured shortstop Didi Gregorius. The versatile 25-year-old hit .291/.314/.375 in 108 games, making 43 starts at second base.

Video: NYY@DET: Torreyes goes 4-for-4 with an RBI in win

Wade logged only 58 big league at-bats, hitting .155, but he made 11 starts at second base and the Yanks have envisioned the 23-year-old developing into a super-utility role in the mold of Brock Holt or Ben Zobrist. YES Network analyst David Cone is among those in Wade's corner, recently tweeting, "Don't sleep on Tyler Wade. Just saying."

Video: NYY@CLE: Wade fields grounder, makes flip for out

"Our second-base situation is going to play out. We have a lot of good, young, hungry players," Cashman said.

The Yankees have also added a pair of experienced candidates, inviting Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson to camp as non-roster players.

The 30-year-old Espinosa has a .221/.297/.378 slash line in 872 big league games, mostly with the Nationals. He has appeared at every infield position, plus left field, but hit .173 last year with the Angels, Mariners and Rays.

Video: Espinosa, Yankees agree to Minor League deal

Peterson, 27, has compiled a .234/.319/.331 slash line in 383 big league games, mostly with the Braves. He hit .215 in 186 at-bats for Atlanta last year, playing every infield position and both outfield corners.

Video: WSH@ATL: Peterson mashes a solo homer in the 8th

Whether it happens on Opening Day or later in the season, the Yankees view Torres as an integral part of their future. The prize of a July 2016 swap that sent closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, Torres lobbied to play winter ball this offseason, eager to prove that his elbow had healed.

Cashman and the Yankees flashed a red light to that request, preferring that he focus on taking the field at 100 percent this spring. Torres reported to the team's Minor League complex weeks ahead of the mandatory February report date, slugging batting practice homers and turning double plays with coaches.

Video: Boone on Torres's opportunity to make impact in 2018

"I don't know what will happen right now," Torres said. "Spring is coming and I'll make sure to play pretty good in the spring. We'll see what happens."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Danny Espinosa, Thairo Estrada, Jace Peterson, Gleyber Torres, Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade