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Gleyber Torres: A test of patience

Gleyber Torres is in the midst of an uninspiring age 24 campaign. He’s sitting at a career-worst 91 wRC+ with a mere .097 ISO (Isolated Power). His defense has also been terrible, with -8 DRS and -7 OAA. To put it plainly, Torres has been an abhorrent shortstop and has made a case to be one of the worst in the league. When you’re a bad defender, you have to hit more than expected just to make up for it. The issue is Torres can’t hit or field, and it’s made people question if he should even start.

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2021 will go down as a lost season for Torres, but does that mean his time in the Bronx should come to an end?

The Reality of Torres’ Ceiling

Torres having a 38 HR season really skewered everyone’s expectations for him. Sure, that’s an impressive HR output, but it only resulted in a 124 wRC+. A 124 wRC+ for a 22-year-old is impressive, but it isn’t generationally great. His ceiling most likely is a 140 wRC+ hitter, which is great for a middle infielder, but a far cry from the MVP talks people had about him. He’s simply not a good enough defender nor powerful enough of a bat to post the 6-7 WAR seasons you see from an MVP.

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His 9.4% barrel rate, 7.9% BB%, and 21.4% K% suggested Gleyber Torres had a good power tool alongside solid bat control. With better plate discipline, Torres could become that 130-140 wRC+ he was always projected to be. That was only two short years ago, everything made so much sense with Gleyber then. Why doesn’t it make any sense now? He has great plate discipline with an above 10% BB% and below 20% K% has aged more and should be in theory so much better.

People will point and say it started in 2020, but that’s just statistically untrue.

2020 Was Better Than You Remember

The regular season was a nightmare for Gleyber Torres, posting terrible defensive numbers and a mere 106 wRC+. The alarming part was the 3.7% barrel rate, a career-low even to this day. The postseason for Gleyber Torres was the opposite, posting a 246 wRC+ and a whopping .696 SLG%.

When you add it up, you get a stat line of this for 2020 Gleyber Torres:

190 PAs
128 wRC+
.355 xwOBA
.420 SLG
.391 OBP

The power is still down, a .420 SLG is not at all great, but the .391 OBP, .355 xwOBA, and 128 wRC+ would all be career highs for Torres. He was better than ever in 2020, so should we really let this season be the end of Torres?

The answer is no.

A Light At The End Of the Tunnel

Not that small sample sizes are the end all be all, but Torres has shown encouraging signs as of late.

Let’s look at Torres’ launch angle from 2018-2020 compared to his 2021:

’18-’20: 17.8
’21: 14.7

He’s hitting the ball on the ground this year, not great, but what about recently? In his last 24 games, Gleyber Torres has a 19.2 Launch Angle. His flyball rate has climbed to 41.7% in this timespan and the groundball rate is below 30%. He also has an 8.2% barrel rate and 122 wRC+ slugging at .489. Don’t you dare quit on this guy. Torres is probably more of a 2B, but he’s going to show that he’s still got that 120-130 wRC+ potential. He’s been a 120 wRC+ hitter every step of the way, and I’m not going to quit because of 308 Plate Appearances in which he wasn’t himself.

I’m not a Torres superfan, but I am a believer in numbers, and Torres’ numbers tell me that he’s worth believing in, all you have to do is have a little patience.

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