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How soon could we see Gleyber Torres in the Bronx?

This week, MLB Pipeline named Gleyber Torres the top shortstop prospect in baseball. (And Jorge Mateo is number 8 — not too shabby.)

Torres shot-up prospect boards thanks to a strong 2016 finish in High-A and a torrid fall. He led the Arizona Fall League in batting average (.403), OPB (.513), and OPS (1.158), and was named the league’s MVP. Pretty good for a kid who just turned 20 in December.

This week on The Bronx Pinstripes Show (@YankeesPodcast) we received a mailbag question asking how soon might we see Gleyber in the bigs. Mailbags start at the 51:40 mark if you rather listen than read.

Question: What are the chances that Gleyber Torres does what Manny Machado did and jump to the majors straight from Double-A? The Orioles had JJ Hardy when they brought Machado up to play 3B. So let’s say Headley struggles again and Gleyber is just destroying the competition in Double-A, does he get the call? You know the Yankees are not known for calling-up guys so young, but what are your thoughts? Go ARod.
–Andy

Go A-Rod, indeed. Everybody should tune-in to A-Rod’s TV show once it airs. I think we owe him that much.

As for Gleyber . . . Andy is right, the Yankees like to slow-play their prospects like they’re aging a fine wine. An example I cited during the podcast of a quick call-up was Greg Bird, who only played 34 games in Triple-A before making an August debut with the Yanks. Bird flew through Scranton because Teixeira went down with an injury in 2015. Had Tex been healthy, we might not have seen Bird until 2016 when Teixeira was injured (again).

When people think of the minor league setup, they think levels. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. First, a player is drafted and then they go to Rookie-ball. The following year, their first full season as a pro, they play A and High-A. Next comes Double-A, followed by Triple-A. If everything works out fine and dandy, it culminates with Major League Baseball.

Some players sky-rocket through the system and others go through more slowly. Many believe Double-A to be the biggest challenge young players face. While Triple-A is probably the most competitive because teams usually stock reserve players there (shout-out Scranton Shuttle), Double-A is where all the raw talent is. Little flaws like a hole in a hitter’s swing, defensive lapses, or inconsistent pitch command become more evident because they’re playing against top talent.

Think of it as your junior year of High School. You want to put your best foot forward so you get accepted to college. It’s the same thing in the minors and it’s why adjustments made at the Double-A level are usually telling for a player’s future.

Gleyber has yet to play in Double-A. He impressed the Yankees and scouts last year, but we have yet to see him compete at the level in which he will face his biggest challenge.

The Double-A Jump does happen, though. Recent players who have made it are Kyle Schwarber (success!), Miguel Sano (not bad), Michael Conforto (um, losing me), and Byron Buxton (uh-oh).

Andy used Manny Machado as an example, who obviously had no trouble making the Double-A Jump. The O’s brought up Machado to play 3B when he was just 19-years-old. He had played only 4 games at third in the minors before getting the every day duties in Baltimore, and he handled the adjustments with ease. Machado is a high bar to set, however. He is one of the game’s best players and on his way to a Hall of Fame career. I think we all would like to think Gleyber is on that trajectory, but again, that’s a lot to put on a kid yet to see the beautiful city of Trenton.

But to answer Andy’s question, yes Gleyber could make the Double-A jump, I just don’t see it being to replace Headley at third base. Torres has played 290 of his 291 minor league games at shortstop and the Yankees, unlike the Orioles, will not want to stick him at the hot corner while he gets his feet wet in the bigs.

What I could see happening this season is the Yankees moving Gleyber around the diamond in the minors. They have done it with many of their infield prospects, namely Tyler Wade and Jorge Mateo.

Should Torres adjust to different positions, then I could see him getting a September call-up so the Yankees can get a first-hand look at him in the Bronx.

Torres, along with Mateo, Wade, Andujar, and others form a lengthy list of infield prospects the Yankees are looking forward to. But let’s not lose sight of what is happening at the big league level now. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro became just the third double play combination 26-years old or younger in major league history to combine for 40 homers.

The point is, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Gleyber Torres projects to be an All-Star for the Yankees, but it is still a couple years away. Let’s not rush things — that’s not how empires are built.

 

Follow me on Twitter, @Andrew_Rotondi.

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