It’s not easy being number one at anything. There’s nowhere to go but down and as Sachel Paige reminded us, “Don’t look behind ’cause someone may be gaining on you.” Which is precisely what’s happening with the Yankees onetime Top MLB Prospect who is still looking to play his first game wearing the pinstripes.
Gleyber Torres has a lot on his mind these days, and unfortunately, not all of it has to do with baseball. Every morning, he texts his parents, whom he left behind in Venezuela to play professional baseball in the United States. From the volatile and unstable country comes the same response from them for Gleyber to not worry and just concentrate on baseball, we’re fine.
But Torres is not okay, and he knows his parents are probably not fine either. Already, there are four players who have eclipsed him in MLB’s ranking of the 2018 Top 100 Prospects. Plus, a teammate who is pushing up on him in Spring Training with an eye towards winning the second base job, while Torres makes his (now) annual trip to the minors while the rest of the team heads north to begin the season.
He’s pressing, he’s trying too hard, he needs to relax and just do what he is capable of doing…every cliche in the book has been thrown out there as Gleyber Torres struggles with only three hits in 20 at-bats thus far in the preseason. And if it keeps going, the Yankees will not have to make excuses, as they have in the past, for sending Torres down, Torres will have lost the job on his own.
Yankees fans have been clamoring to see Torres in uniform for a game at Yankee Stadium since the day he came over from the Cubs, who were in desperate need for a closer in 2016 at the July trade deadline. Brian Cashman knew it and took full advantage by stealing the Cubs number one prospect in Torres for what turned out to be Aroldis Chapman on a lease-only deal.
The Yankees resisted their fanbase at every turn, insisting that Gleyber Torres needed to be groomed and carefully cultivated, much like a racehorse. Now 21, Torres has reached adulthood by any definition of the word, and he should be entering the blooming stage of his career, still with warts but ready to hold a job in the major leagues.
The freakish injury he suffered last year when sliding into home plate, requiring shoulder surgery that put him on the shelf for the second half of the Triple-A season, didn’t help. But it seems to go beyond the physical aspect with Gleyber Torres as we see him today.
Which sounds an awful lot like, “He’s my man at second base.”
The Yankees have been careful in choosing words to describe Gleyber Torres this spring, but the underlying inference is that there’s something “off” about Torres, and it has nothing to do with his .150 batting average and everything to with his demeanor and body language. Translation? He looks lost and lacks confidence.
Hitting a baseball coming your way at 97 mph with a split second to put together a hundred or so precise body movements, each designed for your bat to meet the ball on that sweet spot, is hard enough. Add a head game to the mixture, and things quickly go awry as they seem to be doing Torres at the moment.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the young man because, for the first time in his short career with the Yankees, they seemed to be willing to give Torres a full-fledged opportunity to come North with them as a regular in the lineup.
And if Torres had given the Yankees a reason to, they gladly would have dismissed the lure of sending Torres down for a few weeks to gain another year of control over him, favoring instead the need to have the best players on the field at all times as the team seeks its 28th World Championship.
It’s not over, and there are still a couple of weeks left for Gleyber Torres to rebound. But as Opening Day gets closer, Aaron Boone will want to put his first unit out there with more chances to play together. Meaning at-bats for Torres and players like him will diminish, creating the likelihood there will be more pressure, not less with each plate appearance.
Oddly, in a sport where the best hitters in baseball, the ones who reside in the Hall Of Fame, fail seven of every ten times they stride to the plate, there could be a silver lining attached to the ultimate demotion of Torres.
Because, in all likelihood, this will be the first time Gleyber Torres has ever failed with anything he has tried to do in baseball. And in a game based on failure, learning how to cope with that head-monster means everything.
Gleyber Torres has reached the point in his career where the only thing stalling his career is no longer the Yankees…it’s Gleyber Torres.
The next chapter in yet another baseball story waits to be written.
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