By Mike Calendrillo
In his first Spring Training with the New York Yankees, Gleyber Torresis hitting like a seasoned veteran.
Conventional wisdom would say NO — that the 20-year-old, top Yankees prospect still needs a bit of defensive seasoning before he is deemed ready for the glare of the big league spotlight.
But remember, no one really knew if Mike Trout was prepared in his first full season in 2012 at the same age. All Trout did that year was hit .326 with 30 home runs, 83 RBI and lead the AL in runs scored (129) and stolen bases ( 49). Trout also made his first All-Star team that season and was runner-up in the AL MVP race.
In 1996, at the tender age of 20, Alex Rodriguez would put together the greatest rookie season ever — batting .341 with 36 home runs and 123 RBI while racking up 141 runs scored and 54 extra base hits. A-Rod would go on to make his first of 14 All-Star appearances and finish second for the AL MVP award.
Obviously, the two men mentioned above will go down in baseball history as some of the greatest to ever play the game, so it’s easy to say they should have gotten the call at such a young age. But we didn’t know that at the time, just as we don’t truly know that Torres ISN’Tready to make the leap.
I know Torres has only played a total of 333 games in the minors since 2013. And that he still turns routine ground balls into errors from time to time, but the positives of Torres starting at either second base or third for the Yankees on opening day outweigh the negatives.
I wouldn’t be worried about stunting his growth either. Even a bit of struggle can go a long way towards acting as invaluable experience down the line. Then again, what if Torres doesn’t miss a beat? What if he’s the next A-Rod?
If the Yankees had legitimate roadblocks at every infield position, I’d agree that Torres’ time would be better spent gaining experience down on the farm. But the Yanks don’t.
Chase Headley has two long years left on his current contract. At Torres’ current pace of growth, he certainly can’t wait to be called up until he’s 22. Besides, Headley’s bat doesn’t traditionally begin to heat up until right after the All-Star break, and even then, his good fortune only lasts about three weeks. And don’t you dare mentionRonald Torreyes, Rob Refsnyder or Ruben Tejada as being a better alternative than Torres.
Should the Yankees feel manning the hot corner is too much of a stretch at this time for Torres, then they can certainly plug him into second base and flip Starlin Castro to third. Castro, who like Headey is a notoriously streaky player, proved adept at moving from his traditional shortstop position last season. The change actually resulted in better power numbers (11 HR in ’15 to 20 HR in ’16) and a huge decrease in errors (24 E to 12 E).
Either way, both Castro and Torres have the arm strength to make all the throws that are required for both positions second base and third. The move for Torres now rather than later make the Yankees younger, more athletic, much more explosive, and flat-out fun to watch — while also getting Headley out of the lineup.
The only holdups to my plan are that the Yankees are reluctant to waste salary, so they’ll likely need to find a taker for even a portion of Headley’s remaining $26M before committing hims to a bench role. Also, I’m sure the Yanks don’t want to start Torres’ Major League service clock any sooner than they need to.
But if the kid from Venezuela continues to rake at a .400 clip, and steadily adds to his power stats, the Yankees will be hard-pressed to do their big league club a disservice by sending him down to the minors.
“Baseball is tricky,” Sanchez said. “If you’re hitting and get hot and are playing good baseball, you have a really good chance of making the big leagues. He’s done a great job for us. He’s close. … For it to be his first spring training, it’s been great for him,” Sanchez said through a translator at Charlotte Sports Park. “There are a lot of expectations on him. He’s been able to show his skills. He’s a young guy with a lot of talent.”