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You know your team is off to a rough start when you can hold an intense, riveting discussion centered around this topic: Whose struggles have confounded you the most?
This might be the only category — most confounding performances — in which the Yankees lead the American League. With that high bar established, you might just prevail by going with Gleyber Torres’ April.
Not Torres’ unsurprising travails with the glove, but rather his shocking lack of competence with his bat.
“Horrific situational hitting,” one scout from another club observed of Torres on the condition of anonymity. “Totally reliant on hitting home runs.”
That’s a tough approach when you enter the season’s 17th game, as Torres did Wednesday night against the Braves at Yankee Stadium, with zero home runs. And one RBI. And an abysmal .182/.297/.218 slash line. As a matter of fact, the 24-year-old has flailed so dramatically at the plate that his defensive proficiency at shortstop has temporarily turned into a secondary concern.
“I’m not worried about him long-term offensively, because I feel like there have been more than even moments where I’ve seen Gleyber, I feel like, ready to break out,” manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday before the game. “He just hasn’t.”
One of those moments didn’t occur Tuesday night, Boone acknowledged, when the Yankees ended their five-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Atlanta without much help from Torres. Actually, shortly after the Yankees scored what turned out to be the winning run on a Nate Jones wild pitch, the Braves intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton to load the bases with one out and take their chances with Torres. He chased a 1-and-0 offering from Jones, above the strike zone, and flew out to center field, not deep enough to score an insurance run (which came home subsequently when Mike Ford drew a walk). That wrapped up an 0-for-4 night for Torres.
“[Tuesday] I thought he left the zone a little bit,” Boone said. “Was reaching for some balls.”
According to MLB Savant, Torres’ chase contact actually had decreased to 16.3 percent from last year’s 20.1 percent through Tuesday’s action. His biggest shortcoming had been a lack of “banging,” to use a favorite Boone term. His average exit velocity had dropped by 5 mph, from 88.6 to 83.6, despite his barrel percentage more than doubling, from 3.7 percent to 7.5 percent.
Boone hasn’t deemed it necessary to “bench” Torres, even for a day, as he did Clint Frazier and Aaron Hicks on Tuesday, though Torres did rest April 13 against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. We’ve seen enough from Torres the past three years, including 2020 (which marked his worst season), to know how much better he can be than the awful brand of baseball he’s currently playing.
“I do think he’s pretty resilient,” Boone said of Torres. “Everyone’s a little different. Everyone at different points of a season, at different points of their careers, face different challenges, adversities, all the time. Some have everything to do with the game and the guy you’re facing, [some don’t]. So it’s this constant living thing that you’re just trying to help players get in that right frame of mind. Prepared properly to go out and allow their talent to carry them.”
We witnessed Torres’ considerable talent as recently as last October, when he had a slash line of .435/.567/.696 in seven playoff games. How come we’re not seeing so much as a sizable percentage of that guy, the one who at least in theory could out-hit his defensive flaws, might be confounding enough to win the discussion the Yankees wish wasn’t necessary.
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