Implications of a Torn UCL: The Gleyber Torres Story

I may have jinxed it. Buzz around the Bronx picked up so much a few weeks ago that I felt it was inevitable Gleyber Torres’ would make a resounding entrance into a lineup second only to the Houston Astros in OPS. My series of posts – It’s Not Gleyber Time… Yet & It’s Almost Gleyber Time – detailed the progress and development we had seen from the former Chicago Cubs’ prospect; from Didi Gregorious’ early 2017 injury to a report that the Yankees were grooming Torres to take over Chase Headley’s spot at the hot corner. The anticipation Cashman could give Yankee Stadium another reason to yearn for October seemed unfair to the rest of the league. My trifecta of columns, with completion formerly contingent on Torres’ 2017 debut, will unfortunately veer into my “to be completed” queue until sometime in 2018.

Torres will undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn UCL in his non-throwing elbow. An injury sustained Saturday as he slid into home plate head-first, in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays’ AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.

A column from the New York Daily News brought with it some insight into the timetable for his return, as well as the sly dismissal by Brian Cashman that Torres was an option to see time in the big leagues at some point in the next few months. Torres should be ready for Spring Training 2018 and even with my love for Cashman, we can call his bluff on the Torres debut that could have been.

The corresponding move to take Torres’ roster spot is the promotion of fringe top 10 prospect Miguel Andujar to AAA. I say fringe because Baseball Prospectus has him ranked as a “lottery ticket” while other sites place him just outside their top 10. Raw tools and upside are a combination of characteristics often mushed together, blanketing a good majority of prospects in any team’s organization, but it’s an apt descriptor for this Venezuelan righty bat. Andjuar possesses well above average bat speed, with raw power to his pull side, but is prone to the weak fly balls; a knock on a lot of hard swinging 22 year olds. With an arm that grades out at 70 per Jarrett Seidler (20-80, 70 is “plus-plus” aka, very good), he has the ability to stick at third, but needs to polish up his actions to become a viable option at the hot corner.

Almost as if it was meant to be, I had the pleasure of watching Andujar in Hartford, CT last Thursday, with his now former team, the Trenton Thunder. After reading scouting reports post-game, I couldn’t speak more to the athleticism he showed, and also the raw and mildly immature actions Seidler and company have cited as the key to smoothing out his game. I love the upside he possesses, and find myself instinctively attracted to any prospect with plus raw power and a sub 15% strikeout rate at AA. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Andujar as he showcases his talents in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Seidler closes his Andujar blurb with a great catch-all statement.

“If nothing else, he’s a walking highlight reel complete with enthusiasm and hustle…” – Jarrett Seidler (link)

With Andjuar’s showcase set for AAA, it’s important to point out the order of names Cashman rattled off when presumably asked about the Yankees’ third base situation (NY Daily News). Chase Headley, Ronald Torreyes, and Tyler Wade. The former two we’re all too familiar with, while the latter – I would bet – eventually sees some time in pinstripes. Let’s start with Headley.

The issue I think we have with the perception of Headley is that mediocrity is not the best medicine when you have a 20-year-old phenom who can do the same thing, sitting the in the minor leagues (RIP 2017 Gleybermania). It’s not that Headley has been atrocious, he’s just below average in the things that matter: offense and defense. Difficult to infer on aesthetics alone, his base-running and six stolen bases through 62 games seem to be buoying his overall production metrics. Projecting out to be a 2 WARP player, there isn’t anything less exciting for fans who have the honor of watching Aaron Judge take batting practice, than also watching Headley do the same. Is former MVP candidate a liability? I would argue not, but if Cashman ever wanted to induce a bit more flare than the name Headley will ever have sharpied onto a lineup card, the other non-Torres option in the minors is Wade.

Regarded as an outfielder with a middle infielder’s hands, Wade possesses plus game speed, with 46 steals over his last two minor league seasons. The decision for Wade to see time at third base – nine games in 2017 (AAA) – is a bit perplexing especially given his tag as an above-average utility man, but the arm strength allows for a fit in small doses from my perspective. Currently slashing .324/.384/.466 in 63 games at AAA, Wade’s profile is one that will indeed be unique for a utility third baseman, which Cashman seems to imply as another depth option in his chat with reporters. Better than Headley? Well, I’ll give him different than Headley, and with some upside in every young bat, different may suffice without Torres. Wade’s offensive profile is one that might remind some Yankees fans of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and I think the faithful would stomach that over the current option.

Whichever path Cashman decides to walk, regardless of his skirting around the topic to journalists, my guess is – hold onto your seat – it won’t be as exciting as Torres. But if average production is all that the Yankees can muster, mixing and matching between Headley, the plus glove of Torreyes, or the speed of Wade, isn’t the worst of situations to be in. Especially with an offense that is firing on all possible cylinders.

Get well soon Torres, New York wants to fill the hot corner with a fresh face to purify the once sinful hot corner of New York.

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