Yankees Gleyber Torres Might Make Jorge Mateo Disappear

Mar 5, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo (93) is congratulated in the dugout after his home run against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo (93) is congratulated in the dugout after his home run against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

When 2016 started, the Yankees had two promising shortstops in the system: Tyler Wade at AA and Jorge Mateo at Single A. So when the Yankees added SS Gleyber Torres to their system in July, they assumed they were creating a terrific troika. Instead, the Torres trade might lead to the end of Jorge Mateo.

Mateo and Wade were on different tracks when 2016 started. Wade was thought of as a contact hitter with little power. He played well in 2015 but had way too many errors. His BA slipped once he was promoted to AA and, with underwhelming natural talent and a poor performance in the 2015 AFL, Wade enterered this year more with more questions than answers for the Yankees.

Not so for Mateo. 2015 saw him establish himself as one the most exciting prospects in baseball. After being promoted to High A, he slashed .321/.374/.452 with an .826 OPS, all of which were improvements on his Low A numbers.

He led the world in steals with 82 and flashed enough power to become the Yankees number two prospect. Baseball America ranked him as high as the number 26 prospect in all of baseball and the Yankees deemed him untradeable.

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By the time Torres arrived in late July, perceptions had begun to change. Wade had overcome his intitial poor batting at AA and cut down the errors. He still was not hitting for power but he was hitting the ball to all fields. Above all it was his leadership, character and baseball IQ that started to gain him more notice.

Matoe was going in a different direction. He started strong, batting .337 in April, but quickly cooled off and bottomed out by hitting .194 in June. His steals were down but his power was not up. Worst of all, he showed an attitude problem. He complained that he was not promoted sooner to Double A and later earned a suspension, reportedly for inappopritate comments to a Yankees executive.

Exit Aroldis Chapman

Enter Gleyber Torres at the end of July. He immediately became a higher ranked Yankees prospect than either Wade or Mateo. The effect was not equal, though. Some scouts ranked Mateo as the top prospect for the Yanks; now, he was universally ranked behind Torres.

While Wade merely moved from a middle of the order prospect to a slightly lower middle of the order prospect, Mateo went from the Golden Child to the red-headed step-child (no offense, Clint Frazier).

The distance between them as prospects shrank by the end of the season. The numbers for Mateo and Wade were very similar. Mateo hit .254/.306/.379, with 36 stolen bases, an OPS of .685 and 176 total bases. For Wade, it was .259/.352/.349. He stole 27 bases, had an OPS of .701, and collected 176 total bases.

There are three important differences, however. One is that Mateo is a lot faster. That has a lot of value on the base paths. Two, Wade put up his numbers at a higher level, by all accounts a much harder level to hit at. And three, they are roughly the same age, making Wade’s accomplishments the more impressive. Wade finished his season at Double A at the age of 21; if Mateo ends next year at AA, he will have done so by the age of 22.

A Short Stop

Now, two of the players are at the Arizona Fall League and Mateo is neither of them. A case could be made that Wade is there to learn a new position. But no matter why a player is sent to the AFL, once in, he has a chance to showcase his talent. Every player wants a chance to show off for both his club and the rest of MLB.

New York Yankees shortstop Jorge Mateo (93) and second baseman Tyler Wade (94) collide. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Torres is clearly there because the Yankees consider him to be a top prospect. Greg Bird was the MVP of the AFL two years ago and played in the Bronx the following year. Gary Sanchez showed off his home run stroke in the 2015 AFL and made his debut this season. Torres is making the most of his opportunity and could win the MVP this year, if he keeps hitting.

Character is Destiny

Wade is reportedly energized by the addition of Torres. His public comments reflect his team first attitude. He seems to understand that the Yankees are in a better position to win titles, and he hopes to have a role. This is good news for Yankees fans, especially since the move that brought Gleyber seems likely to move Wade to a super-utility role.

At the AFL, Wade is getting ready for just such a role. He has been preparing exclusively as an outfielder and seems likely to get his only playing time at that position. That is good because playing for the Yankees looks like it might soon be difficult.

Along with Torres, the Yankees have Didi Gregorious, Starlin Castro, Mateo, Bird, Rob Refsnyder and Miguel Andujar vying for infield positions. The outfield prospects are well documented, along with the pending free agent class of ’18.

For Wade to make the Yankees, it will have to be in some sort of support role. That would be great for the Yankees but players rarely embrace that role. If Wade is being sincere in his comments, the Yankees will have an inexpensive, young, leader-by-example player for the next few years, starting in 2018.

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Size Matters

Hopefully Jorge Mateo has the same attitude. The arrival of Torres seems destined to move Mateo to second. If he embraces the challenge and move, the Yankees could have the best young middle infield in baseball. Mateo and Torres could bat 1-2 and provide plenty of speed and power.

But, there is a chance that Mateo will continue to let the size of his attitude match his talent. If he was already unhappy about his role and status, Jorge might let Gleyber’s prospect status, great notices from the AFL and the fact that he ripped his job from him drive him to lose focus. That would be a crime against baseball.

Mateo is at a crossroads. The Yankees are loading up on talent and getting ready to spend money. Right now, Gleyber Torres looks like he will be a big part of that. If Jorge Mateo is focused on being the most dynamic version of himself, no matter his position, then he, the Yankees, and the fans will be immensly better off.

If Mateo does not mature soon, as Gary Sanchez had to do, he will stay in the minors until his career opportunities dissipate. He could become just another athlete with big league talent but not a big league attitude. I hope that is not the case.

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I have a mental image of the 2018 Yankees. When I look at the middle of the diamond, I see Mateo at second and Torres at short. Okay, I also see Miguel Andujar at third but I digress. The talent is there. We have seen the promise. But if Torres success brings out the worst in Mateo, he will fade from that picture and disappear from the Yankees forever. And I will have spent time writing about a ghost.