A year after benefitting from one of the best rookie performances in baseball history, the Yankees again are hoping that one of the game's top prospects will make an impact in New York.
He won't slam 52 homers like Aaron Judge did in 2017, but infielder Gleyber Torres has exceptional hitting ability. Ranked No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, he'll join the Yankees for their Sunday afternoon game against the Blue Jays.
Torres is capable of playing shortstop (his primary position in the Minors), third base (where he has seen the most action this year in Triple-A) and second base. Though New York hasn't commented yet on what his role will be, the most obvious spot for him would be at second. The club has gotten little production out of Tyler Wade or Neil Walker, and while Ronald Torreyes has hit well in six starts there, Torres offers superior power and defense.
Scouts considered Torres the top infielder available during the 2013-14 international signing period, and he has lived up to that billing since signing with the Cubs for $1.7 million out of Venezuela in July 2013. He has excelled everywhere he has gone, starting with ranking as the Class A Midwest League's top prospect and winning a championship in the Class A Advanced Carolina League in 2015, his first taste of full-season ball.
The key prospect in the four-player package the Yankees received when they sent Albertin Chapman to the Cubs in July 2016, Torres finished that year as the youngest MVP and batting champion (.403) in Arizona Fall League history. He reached Triple-A last May at age 20 and was pushing for a promotion to New York a month later when he injured his left (non-throwing) elbow on a headfirst slide into home plate on June 17. An MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery and ended his season.
Torres went 7-for-32 (.219) in big league camp this spring but quickly regained his stroke once the Triple-A season started. In 14 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he batted .347/.393/.510 with one home run. He's a career .285/.362/.419 hitter in pro ball with 121 extra-base hits (24 homers) in 370 games.
At age 21, Torres will be the second-youngest player in the Major Leagues. He's only 25 days older than the youngest, Ozzie Albies.
One of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball, Torres has lightning-fast hands that enable him to barrel balls with ease. He recognizes pitches well and rarely gets fooled, and he's advanced in his ability to make adjustments and use the entire field. He has steadily improved his power and his plate discipline as he has risen through the Minors.
Torres' hands are an asset on defense as well, as is his plus arm strength. He covers more ground than his average speed would suggest, and he's capable of playing a solid shortstop and perhaps an even better second or third base. Star shortstop Didi Gregorius isn't going anywhere, but Torres also could take over at third base if fellow rookie Miguel Andujar falters and Brandon Drury is slow to return from his migraine issues.
Torres should make an already formidable Yankees lineup even more dangerous. If he gets 300 at-bats this year, a reasonable expectation would be that he could hit .275 with 8-10 homers. Once he's playing regularly and in his prime, he should contend for batting titles and deliver 20-plus homers per season.