Following a 38-homer 2019 season, Gleyber Torres was set to become the biggest piece of the next great core of New York Yankees players. Since then, the 24-year-old shortstop has become a shell of his former self. What exactly happened?
Just from the eye test, you can see that from Gleyber’s swing, his bat head is much slower through the zone. He has been late on pitches that the 2019 version of Gleyber Torres would have driven for extra bases.
The advanced metrics back this up as well. Gleyber has almost completely lost the ability to hit fastballs. According to Baseball Savant, the Yankees’ shortstop is hitting .207 and slugging .284 on registered fastballs so far in 2021, whereas, during the 2019 season, he was hitting .292 and slugging .603 on the very same pitch.
Fastballs are pitches that hitters should do the most damage on, and Gleyber is swinging right through them. He’s had an especially hard time keeping up with the high fastball.
What in the world has happened to Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres?
He’s doing damage within the middle of the zone and that’s about it. Part of this issue comes from his passiveness at the plate. Torres has increased his walk rate drastically, going from 7.9% in 2019 to 11.2% so far in 2021.
On the surface, this seems like a good thing. But for Gleyber, this has had a negative effect to his approach at the plate. During the 2018-19 seasons, Torres was much more aggressive and would make his adjustments to pitches regardless of location. Over the past two seasons, however, he has been more in-between and less sure of himself it seems, causing him to be late on fastballs in the zone.
The problem isn’t just his ability to hit fastballs, however. He’s also had a harder time adjusting his two-strike approach.
When Torres is at his best, he has shown an ability to make adjustments on the fly. Mid-at-bat or sometimes even mid-pitch, you would see a change within his swing that would result in a base hit. He’s extremely balanced at the plate and that has helped him to stay on different pitches longer than the average hitter.
On a number of occasions, we would see Gleyber completely abandon his leg kick with two strikes, like this. This at-bat was during his rookie season in 2018. Look at how he keeps his foot planted and stays through the ball. This allows him to adjust to the breaking ball if needed and still be on time for the fastball while sacrificing some power. The result is a base hit up the middle.
Torres has stayed with the leg kick throughout this season with two strikes, and the results have not been pretty — like here. This at-bat was earlier this year in June. That’s a 93 MPH meatball in the middle of the zone and Torres was way behind the pitch.
The biggest issue is that (it seems) Torres has been selling out on his approach in order to try to generate more power. It’s pretty clear that he has been pressing at the plate and trying to do too much instead of trying to stay within himself. Heading into Sunday’s game vs. the Astros, he was slugging a measly .309. That’s good for the third-worst in all of baseball for qualified hitters, according to Fangraphs.
This is the same Gleyber Torres who hit 38 home runs during the last full regular season. Thirty-eight! While some of that was aided by the juiced ball that MLB used during that season, no one expected a regression in power quite like this.
So far in the month of July, Torres has been much better. His at-bats have resulted in much harder contact and while the results have not been there, there have been some promising signs.
If the Yankees are going to salvage this season whatsoever, they are going to need Gleyber Torres to get back to what made him so great his first two MLB campaigns — staying within himself at the plate and not sacrificing his approach to generate more power.