BALTIMORE -- It almost makes too much sense for it not to happen. At some point this summer, one of the most exciting prospects in the minor leagues, Gleyber Torres, seems destined to be with the New York Yankees.
This is despite the fact that he wasn't born until a few months after Derek Jeter won his first championship in 1996. Torres, 20, has a Jeter-esque feel for the game, which has many Yankees officials convinced he'll be in the Bronx sooner rather than later.
When asked if Torres will be in the big leagues this season, GM Brian Cashman wouldn't go that far ... yet.
“Anybody Double-A on up has a chance this year,” Cashman said, while reiterating that Torres is not on his major league radar at the moment (Torres was just promoted to Triple-A).
To be trusted later this summer with playing in the most important games of the Yankees' season, Torres would need manager Joe Girardi’s endorsement. Girardi said that what stood out for him during spring training was Torres’ maturity.
“He had a clock that was slow,” Girardi said.
What Girardi means is there's a calmness to the way Torres plays the game. He doesn't speed up under pressure; rather, he remains as relaxed as if he were 10-year veteran, even though he's not yet of legal drinking age.
Among Jeter’s best attributes was his ability to be the same player in October that he was in June. Jeter had an all-time great clock.
“He’s got a good clock,” Yankees third base and infield coach Joe Espada said. “That’s an impressive thing. He just slows things down. There is no panic.”
Espada has seen a lot of Torres, even heading to the Arizona Fall League for a week largely to check Torres out. This spring, Espada watched how strong Torres’ instincts were in the field. Even now, with Torres at Triple-A, Espada watches videotape of every defensive play Torres makes.
“He plays like a veteran, even though he is 20 years old,” Espada said.
Torres is listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, but his body is still filling out. He was acquired as a shortstop, like his idol, fellow Venezuelan Omar Vizquel. The Yankees have him playing short, second and third at Triple-A Scranton.
Like Aaron Judge, who has also garnered comparisons to Jeter, Torres is a young Yankee who talks more about the team than about himself. He thinks he knows what the young core needs to do to succeed.
“The key is to play together,” Torres said.
At Double-A Trenton, Torres hit .273 with an .863 OPS, while at Scranton he is at .208 and .595 through seven games. That is too small of a sample to judge anyone by, but the Yankee decision-makers seem to have full confidence.
“You watched his at-bats, and I thought, in a sense, they were very mature,” Girardi said of what he saw in spring. “He hit to the situation, as opposed to just going up and wildly swinging.”
With Didi Gregorius at short and Starlin Castro at second, the obvious spot for Torres could be at third base, where Chase Headley is struggling. Headley is hitting .236 with a .677 OPS in the third season of a four-year, $52 million contract.
“Personally, it’s been more of a roller coaster than I would have anticipated,” Headley said. “Hopefully, I can settle that down.”
There is another option, which could take a little pressure off Torres. Instead of handing him a single position, they could call him up and have him play a lot at third, some at second and occasionally at short. He could be a jolt for the Yankees’ everyday lineup at the trade deadline. Instead of using prospects to bring in more experienced players, the Yankees could give their top prospect experience, and he could help them win.
Because infielders don’t play in their traditional spots all the time with the advent of the shift, the fact that Torres is a natural shortstop will help him.
“I think he could play anywhere in the infield, and his skill set is going to play,” Girardi said.
Torres could be playing relatively soon at Yankee Stadium. His clock on the field might be slow and calm, but the one determining when he will be in the big leagues is picking up speed.