Gleyber Torres matching Rickey Henderson is Yankees pairing we never expected
By Adam Weinrib
New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres -- who's still just 26 -- was fated for big things when he arrived in the Bronx, and immediately delivered, hitting 24 home runs in 123 games, making the All-Star team and finishing third in the Rookie of the Year chase in 2018.
Despite a down 2020-21, Torres has still largely delivered on the great expectations that accompanied his arrival. What's been unexpected, though, is which legends he's been matching.
Torres has been several different players over the course of his Yankees tenure. While it seemed fair to envision him as "the next Willie Randolph" or "the modern Joe Gordon" at second base when he was first promoted, he turned into a megalith in his sophomore season, socking 38 home runs at the age of 22 and suddenly forcing us to reckon with the question, "...............Is this A-Rod?"
Now, after a difficult pandemic-shortened season, an ill-fated move to shortstop in 2021, and a mostly-great 2022 that featured an awful post-trade deadline August, Torres has added another Hall of Fame name to his trophy case of comparisons: Rickey Henderson, the greatest base-stealer who ever lived?
That ... that can't be right. Torres, with the old bases, wasn't slow and plodding, but didn't exactly burn rubber out there; he's never stolen more than 14 bags in a season. But, suddenly, with MLB's new rules and new equipment, Torres is running for his life out there, swiping five stolen bases in his first six games.
Combine that number with his climbing walk total and locked-in plate discipline, and Torres is firmly in Rickey territory.
Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres is stealing bases like Rickey Henderson
Now, all the Yankees need to do is make sure he stays comfortable. Maintain this. Do whatever you have to do to make him feel at home. Forget about any and all knee-jerk "sell high" reactions. Torres was never a worth sacrifice for a lineup that already lacked offensive depth. Now? He's made himself essential.
Add in Josh Donaldson's barking injury, and it's now even easier to find playing time for the entire trio of Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton, who can split right field and DH reps without worrying about Henderson 2.0 butting in.
Power. Patience. Speed. Keen eye. Nose for the ball. We've never seen a Gleyber quite this good before. In his juiced ball 2019 season, league-wide offense was so boffo that his 38 bombs only registered a 128 OPS+.
Maybe it's the magic dust that rubbed off on him from Team Venezuela's star-studded World Baseball Classic run. Maybe it's the pressure of feeling like he has to prove himself to the Yankees one last time. Maybe it's just maturation.
Either way, Torres has made himself one of the most important cogs in the Yankees' lineup, and his production could swing the remainder of the season.