While it's true that the 2024 Yankees won't go much further than the 2023 edition without a wide swath of bounce backs, from DJ LeMahieu to Giancarlo Stanton to Anthony Rizzo, we're starting to at least see a faint light at the end of the tunnel as August reaches its end.
LeMahieu, in particular, has looked much stronger in the second half, even while battling a calf issue. After posting a .643 first-half OPS, he's at .826 in the second half through play on Tuesday. Stanton's second-half OPS has increased 30 points, too, though that could be short-term variance (and his other statistics have stayed mostly the same). Rizzo? His post-concussion syndrome symptoms span Sean Casey's entire tenure as hitting coach; his season has been invalidated on multiple grounds.
The team's aging veterans represent the largest issue moving forward for this below-average offense, as well as Casey's biggest challenge, but the ex-MLB player's guidance seems to at least have had an impact on LeMahieu. The two have connected on LeMahieu's Michigan upbringing, and represent an example of contrasting personalities who've managed to find a middle ground. The importance of LeMahieu moving forward -- and stark difference between his two halves -- will grab Casey-related headlines, but while searching through his success stories, don't ignore Gleyber Torres' turnaround.
Torres probably won't sign a long-term deal in New York due to the glut of infield prospects in the Yankees' system. He's much more likely to be traded this winter or set free after 2024, if the Yankees deem themselves contenders and don't think Oswald Peraza can do a reasonable Torres impression next year. But his second-half surge has gotten his OPS close to .800 after it lingered at .739 entering the break. That was good enough to make him one of the Yankees' best hitters, but not good enough to make that a badge of honor.
LeMahieu's mindset shift appears to have worked wonders, but Torres? He seems to have made a tangible change to his stance. Whether it came at Casey's behest or someone else's must be determined when evaluating the guru's case to stay in 2024.
Torres implemented a toe tap, as you can see here, that seems to have revitalized the way he attacks pitches with two strikes. He's certainly ambushed the zone far more often since Casey found his way into the dugout and Lawson saw himself out.
Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres has surged in the second half with stance change
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Torres reaching new heights won't help them with their most difficult offseason decision.
LeMahieu, Stanton, and Rizzo (to a lesser extent) are wedded to this roster long-term. Any leap they make is national news; LeMahieu looking competent could help bail out the Bombers as they plummet toward earth. Torres heating up at the age of 26 and reaching the ceiling Baseball America foretold for him way back in 2016? That would mean the Yankees would have to weigh the cost of another long-term deal once again, after likely ruling such an expenditure out back in 2021.
If the Yankees can't improve upon Torres over the next six or seven years, maybe they ... do have to extend him. Can they accept another right-handed batter anchored to the lineup for a half-decade? Can they trust Torres' growth spurt to continue? Will they get baited into another mistake by this tangible change in his plan of attack?
Odds are Torres' future still isn't in the Bronx. It's best to just enjoy the ride and hope that his improvements portend more widespread (effective) adjustments based on the organization's new teachings.