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No slumpin here: Gleyber Torres’ sophomore bump

Gleyber Torres burst onto the scene last year and immediately started to confirm what we had thought for a while: he is going to be a star. All told, in his rookie season, Torres hit .271/.361/.480, good for a 120 wRC+. Not bad for a 21-year-old. What if I told you that Gleyber has improved every facet of his game this season? Is that something you might be interested in?

 

Walk/Strikeout Rates

Consider the following chart from FanGraphs:

This helps us understand what decent walk rates and strikeout rates are. Gleyber is just in his sophomore season, but he’s already making improvements in some key offensive categories. Last year his walk rate was a solid 8.7%, but it has improved to 9.7% so far this season.  His strikeout rate last year was 25.2%, which is a bit high for a middle infielder, but he has improved that mark to 22.4% this year. That’s still a tick below average, but when you consider the power that Gleyber has displayed, it’s perfectly acceptable. Lastly, his overall contact rate has gone from 70.9% in 2018 to 74.4% this year. Take a look at the graph below to help visualize his improvement in these categories.

Power

Perhaps Gleyber’s biggest offensive improvement has been in the power department. He is starting to show why scouts had pegged a 60-grade on his raw power. Last year he hit 24 home runs with 16 doubles, and 1 triple. This was good for an isolated slugging of .209. Read more on isolated slugging here. This season, Gleyber has already amassed 19 homers with 14 doubles. His ISO has improved dramatically to .242. To put that into perspective, Robbie Cano has never had an ISO that high in his career over a full season, and he’s had some pretty elite ones.  Nice company.

Defense

Last year Gleyber played his first full season at 2B in his career, and it came with mixed results. His range was good, his arm was great, but he also made some rookie mistakes that cost him in the defensive metrics department (-7.9 DEF). This year, he seems to have cleaned up some of those mistakes and is making some more difficult plays as well. So far he has a +0.7 DEF according to FanGraphs. A lot of this has to do with his exceptional play at SS when Didi was on the shelf, but I think he is starting to develop better instincts at 2B as well. This play, in particular, was just ridiculous:

Gleyber’s improved defense is part of the reason the Yankees are set up so well with their infield defense this year. They have tightened up 2B and 3B, and can sub in LeMahieu at 1B at the end of the game. This is a huge upgrade from last year’s infield defense. Hopefully, all of the above-mentioned trends can continue for Gleyber, especially the home run trend. He has an outside shot of becoming the Yankees’ first 40 homer second baseman this year.

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