One of the top prospects in the minors is a step closer to the majors. On Sunday, the Yankees promoted Gleyber Torres, the shortstop obtained from the Cubs in last summer's Aroldis Chapman trade, from its Double A Trenton affiliate to its Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre one. While there's no opening yet on the Yankees, who at 25–16 are running first in the AL East, the move increases the likelihood that the 20-year-old Venezuelan will reach the Bronx later this season.
When the Yankees acquired Torres as part of a four-player package—pitcher Adam Warren and outfielders Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney were also included—last July 25, he was playing for Chicago's High A affiliate, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League. He finished the year with the Yankees' High A team in the Florida State League, the Tampa Yankees, and hit a combined .270/.354/.421 with 11 homers at the two stops. That was a strong showing for a 19-year-old, but what really turned heads was his .403/.513/.645 performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he won the batting title and became the league's youngest MVP winner.
Thanks to that stellar season, Torres came into the year ranked among the game’s top five prospects on the Baseball America, ESPN and MLB Pipeline lists. Though he missed 10 days in April due to rotator cuff tendinitis, he made short work of Double A, hitting .273/.367/.496 with five homers and five steals in 32 games and 139 plate appearances. Four of those homers came in a five-game span earlier this week, boosting his slugging percentage from .396. Via Baseball America, Yankees farm director Gary Denbo said, “Ever since we’ve gotten him in the organization, he’s shown the ability to give quality at-bats every single day… He’s shown some power, he’s played some exceptional defense for us, his throwing has been accurate and he’s getting better and better on the basepaths. So all the things that we want him to check off on the way to major league player, he’s been doing it for us.”
Listed at 6'1", 175 pounds, Torres has drawn raves from scouts for his pitch recognition skills, exceptionally quick hands, and advanced, whole-field approach at the plate. All five of his tools grade out as at least average, with his power considered above-average, his hit tool and defense generally as plus, and his arm as plus-plus. Thanks to the graduations of Boston's Andrew Benintendi and Atlanta's Dansby Swanson—both of whom have now exceeded the 130 at-bat threshold (they're eligible for Rookie of the Year, but no longer considered prospects)—Torres is now ranked second on the BA and MLB lists behind the White Sox's Yoan Moncada, who could also see time in the majors this year.
As to whether Torres will, it’s worth noting that in addition to playing shortstop, he’s made five starts at both second base (which he played a fair bit of in the AFL) and six at third base, a position he hadn’t played professionally before this year. With Didi Gregorius back in action after missing the first 20 games of the season due to a right shoulder strain, the Yankees don't have an immediate opening at shortstop. Second baseman Starlin Castro has been one of the team's leading hitters thus far (.341/.374/.524); his batting average ranks fourth in the league. Third baseman Chase Headley hit .301/.402/.494 in April but is now in the throes of a 5-for-44 slump during which he's whiffed 16 times without walking. In the short term, he could lose time to utilityman Ronald Torreyes, who filled in for Gregorius in April, but barring an injury clearing an obvious path, the hot corner looks like it could be Torres's initial landing spot if he's up later this summer.
It could be his spot in the long term as well, given the organization’s depth at shortstop. Gregorius is under team control through 2019, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Tyler Wade and Tampa’s Jorge Mateo are also well-regarded prospects, though the organization is grooming the former as a Ben Zobrist-type multiposition player. Some talent evaluators have voiced concerns about Torres’s lateral range, viewing him as more likely to be an above-average defender at third or second. But if he continues to raise his stock on the defensive side as he has on the offensive side, things could get very interesting.
After last summer’s sell-off of Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, and then the November trade of Brian McCann to the Astros, the Yankees appeared geared for a rebuilding year in which youngsters such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird solidified their spots in the majors. The prospect of Torres joining them could make this an even more interesting summer in the Bronx.