The Yankees up and down season has been marked by the constant presence of the smallest Yankee of them all, simply doing his thing. Which is to be wherever he’s asked to be. It’s a fair question to ask where the team would be without him.
The Yankees smallest player carries a big stick. He walks out of the dugout swinging, and it’s a rare occasion when he’s not driving his bat through the zone on the first pitch he sees. Or, is the bat driving him through the zone?
But if Statcast keeps track of how often a hitter makes contact on the sweet spot of his bat, I would wager that Ronald Torreyes finishes in the Top Ten. Or, at least it seems that way.
The Yankees and their fan base first took notice of Torreyes when Joe Girardi tagged him as the replacement for Didi Gregorius, who was scheduled to miss the first month of the 2017 season due to an injury he incurred during the World Baseball Classic.
That seems like a year ago, but we can recall that Torreyes, at the age of 24, stepped into that role as though he belonged there all the time. No Ozzie Smith anywhere he plays, Torreyes made all the plays at shortstop a big league player is expected to make.
And that would have been enough for the Yankees and the team. Except that Torreyes took it a step further by adopting a Derek Jeter like ability to be in the middle of anything the Yankees did well.
And he hasn’t let up. In limited action, he’s raised his batting average to almost .300 and continues to be the go-to guy Joe Girardi trusts and can call on whenever he’s needed.
Torreyes is what baseball people call a “journeyman.” These are players who are good enough to be one of the 650 men who are on major league 25-man rosters. But he’s not quite good enough to be one of the 300 or so who are “regulars” in a lineup. Or, is he?
If he stays with the Yankees, we’ll probably never know because he’s too valuable in his current role. His salary is a pittance compared to the value (Hal, are you listening?) and energy he brings to the team ($561,900). And it would be a miscarriage of justice (Aaron Judge, are you listening?) if he is not signed again for 2018.
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The Yankees are the seventh major league organization he has played for in his brief career. Typically, the mantra with a player like Torreyes who’s bounced around so much is, “There must be something about him.” Maybe he’s a piraya in the clubhouse – no. Maybe he doesn’t always show up for work on time – no. Or, perhaps it’s just a matter of circumstance – yes.
No matter. And I suppose if a poll were to be taken to elect the Yankees Most Valuable Player this season, I would project Judge would win in a landslide, followed by Luis Severino, and then, all things being equal, Ronald Torreyes would finish third.
Torreyes, among Yankees fans in the know, is fast achieving a cult following. He could, for instance, triple his salary almost overnight just by teaming up with Aaron Judge posing for side-by-side photos at ten dollars a pop. The lines would stretch out to River Avenue and beyond.
But that’s not what Torreyes is about. He’s a workmanlike major league ballplayer who happily carries his lunch pail to work every day. He’s also an indispensable New York Yankee.