TORONTO – Gleyber Torres looks like, well, Gleyber Torres. Not the Gleyber Torres the Yankees worried about the previous two seasons. He’s nothing like the kid who struggled to make routine plays at shortstop and fight those fights at home plate. No. Torres is more like the 2018-19 version of himself, playing second base with a confidence that carries over to the batter’s box.
Torres hit two line doubles Friday night and is hitting .327/.400/.673 with 11 runs scored, five doubles, four home runs and seven RBIs over his last 14 games.
“It probably takes a bit of the pressure off him overall, which probably helped his offense a little bit, but probably not to the extent that the narrative might suggest,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of de Torres relaxing now that he’s playing second base rather than shortstop. “He’s a very good attacking player and he made some quality adjustments that got him to this point.”
The difference between Torres at shortstop and second base is quite stark. Torres entered Saturday afternoon’s game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Center with three errors on 193 chances. He has 7 defensive points saved at second base, which is a huge swing from the -10 defensive points saved last season at shortstop, according to FanGraphs. He made 18 errors at shortstop last season, eight on the field and 10 on the pitch.
“Well, shortstop is a more difficult position,” Boone said. “Being a major league shortstop is like being a great cornerback. It’s a premium position that not many people can play at a high level at this level. I probably think [Torres’] the skills line up a bit more for second base.
“I always think [Torres] has a skill set in a pinch to go there [to shortstop] because he has arm strength and he has good hands,” Boone continued. “Hopefully at some point we bring him in to maintain that option, but I think he’s played exceptionally well this year and obviously he’s swung the bat very well for us.”
The Yankees ended Torres’ shortstop experience Sept. 13 and almost immediately saw him begin the transformation back to his old self. At the end of the season, general manager Brian Cashman made it clear he was in the market to land a daily shortstop, ending speculation over Torres in the position. They found a good solid and athletic stopgap in the position of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whom they traded this spring. Kiner-Falefa can handle the job until one of the Yankees’ top prospects — Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe — is ready.
Torres had started out as a shortstop in baseball and was one of the most touted shortstop prospects as a minor leaguer. After the change, however, Torres accepted he was better at second base.
Torres’ time as the Yankees’ starting shortstop coincided with his worst offensive struggles. After hitting 38 home runs and ruffing .278/.337/.535 in 2019, Torres has only hit 12 homers in 169 games he has played in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
It’s not just the change of position.
Torres was embarrassed by his final two years and it began a process of rediscovery on set.
He went 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 in 2018-19 and told Lawson he just wanted to be like that again.
Torres came into Saturday’s game hitting .254/.304/.497 with an .801 OPS. He has 12 homers in 58 games. A dramatic improvement is in the number of balls he hits hard now, his hard hitting percentage has increased from 35.7% in 2021 to 48.4% this season. He shoots the ball more, as his barrel percentage has gone from 7.8% to 11.1%.
So far this season he looks more like that 2018-19 version of himself.