Gleyber Torres' Fall Breakout Shows Yankees Their Superstar of the Future

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterNovember 8, 2016

Oct 18, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Scottsdale Scorpions infielder Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees against the Surprise Saguaros during an Arizona Fall League game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nolan Arenado caught scouts' eyes in the Arizona Fall League when he was 20 years old. So did Derek Jeter, Corey Seager and Francisco Lindor.

Gleyber Torres is 19.

"He's playing against older guys," Carl Moesche of the Major League Scouting Bureau said in an interview on Saturday on MLB Network. "And he's not intimidated."

Torres is the youngest player in baseball's well-respected fall development league. As of Monday, his 1.026 OPS ranked third-highest in the league. In 12 games, he had more than twice as many walks (11) as strikeouts (five), with three home runs.

"The bat's going to play," a National League scout said.

As dangerous as it is to declare prospects to be future superstars, the current trend has young players starring earlier than ever. Five of the nine players in the Chicago Cubs' World Series Game 7 lineup were 24 or younger, and the Cleveland Indians' best hitter through the postseason was the 22-year-old Lindor.

It's enough to persuade every other team searching for young stars of its own, just as the New York Yankees did when they demanded Torres as the key part of the July 25 deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.

As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told George A. King III of the New York Post, Torres is "someone you can dream on."

And as the Cubs were realizing a dream by winning a World Series with Chapman's help, Torres was in Arizona, continuing to justify Cashman's faith. The Cubs have no reason to regret giving him up, not with a trophy to show for it, but the Yankees have even more reason to believe their side of the deal will play out well, too.

"I saw [Torres] in [Class-A] Tampa and in Arizona," another National League scout said. "He's going to hit in the 2-hole or 5-hole, and he's good defensively, too. Very instinctive. I like him a lot."

The Arizona Fall League is about dreams, and it's never a perfect indicator of future success. Kris Bryant was an Arizona Fall League MVP (2013 at age 21), but so was Chris McGuiness, now out of baseball after 10 major league games.

And while Torres has been impressive at the plate, he also has three errors and has at least one scout concerned that he won't be able to stick at shortstop.

"Defensively, he's just OK," the scout said. "He has good arm strength, but he's erratic. He could end up moving to second base or maybe even third. He's not terrible defensively, but he's not [Yankees shortstop] Didi Gregorius."

The same scout said Torres doesn't run as well as you might expect, but even after the critiques, he went back to how good of a hitter he expects Torres to be.

"The one thing he can really do is hit," the scout said. "He centers the ball, and he drives it."

Gregorius is just 26 years old, and the Yankees have another young and touted middle infield prospect in 21-year-old Jorge Mateo. It's too early to know if Torres will remain at shortstop and become the Yankees' answer to Lindor or Seager or Carlos Correa, but his skills with the bat should enable him to be a key part of their future lineup.

Torres' offensive numbers so far in Arizona are impressive because of his age and relative lack of experience. His third home run was against Chris Ellis, a 24-year-old Atlanta Braves right-hander who spent most of the 2016 season in Double-A.

One scout who goes to Arizona every fall said the pitching was significantly better in the league this year.

Torres, who signed with the Cubs for $1.7 million at age 16, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via colleague Adam Berry), is accustomed to facing older players. The Cubs moved him to High-A Myrtle Beach at the end of the 2015 season and started him there again in 2016. He was one of the youngest players in the Florida State League when the Yankees sent him to Tampa after the trade.

"Mature bat for a young kid," a scout said.

"Just keep him challenged," another said.

The challenge for the Yankees will be sticking to their plan of developing a strong, young core, even if it takes longer than they would like. Scouts in Arizona have also been impressed by Miguel Andujar, a 21-year-old third baseman who is one of Torres' teammates at Scottsdale.

"He has great wrist action and big power," one scout said. "I think he can be their everyday third baseman by 2018."

If Torres and Andujar move quickly from the fall league to the Bronx, they'll only be following a path Jeter laid two decades ago and one Gary Sanchez followed much more recently. Sanchez played in last year's Fall Stars Game and led the league in home runs before quickly becoming a hit himself when the Yankees called him up in August.

Sanchez turns 24 on December 2, which makes him young by major league standards but almost exactly four years older than Torres, who will turn 20 on December 13.

By season's end, Sanchez was the Yankees' best player. Perhaps he will be for years to come.

Or maybe it will be the young shortstop, the kid already starring in the fall league before he even turns 20.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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