This offseason, a common theme in previews, prediction, and MLB conversations at large were the rule changes. An interesting note was how every player was going to benefit, one way or another, from the new rules. Power hitters who aren’t fast will benefit from the shift ban while fast hitters who lack power will thrive from the bigger bases. While every player (in all of baseball) is poised to benefit, a player that is taking advantage of the new rules is the New York Yankees Gleyber Torres.
The Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 on a cold Wednesday afternoon to win the series. The win keeps the Yankees near the top of their division but Torres stood out in the otherwise lackluster game. Torres, who has had a rocky tenure in pinstripes stepped up at the plate and is sending a message that this could be his year.
Gleyber Torres is Thriving with MLB’s New Rules
Torres Has a Three-Hit Day vs Phillies
Gerrit Cole and Aaron Nola were on the mound in April for this game. The indications from the two aces hurling in cold weather were going to be that runs would be hard to come by. In the first inning, the Yankees got their first big chance to score with Aaron Judge on second base but they needed a big hit from an unlikely hero. Enter Torres. On a hanging curve ball, Torres muscled the ball into shallow left field while shattering his bat, driving in the first run in the game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with two outs in a 1-0 game, Torres delivered again. With DJ LeMahieu in scoring position, he knocked the ball back up the middle for a base hit, allowing the run to score. Along with the two RBI, Torres capped off the day with a double to add to the strong day at the plate.
It was Gleyber Day in the BX 💪
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 5, 2023
A three-hit game isn’t extraordinary. However, it’s where Torres was hitting the ball that stood out. He pulled the first hit into shallow left field and his second hit came with a hard grounder up the middle. Both those hits would be outs (or likely out considering the fielding of the Phillies) if the shift was in play. Torres is a pull-heavy hitter and with the rules preventing infielders from playing on the grass or overcrowding one side, he can find easy hits.
Torres Can Finally Hit His Stride
In 2019, Torres was one of the best players on the Yankees. He slashed .278/.337/.535 with 38 home runs and 292 total bases, making him a constant threat at the plate. His next three years have been a disappointment to put it lightly. From 2020-22, his slash line has been .256/.325/.406 hand he’s only hit 36 home runs despite playing in 309 games.
There are a lot of reasons for his drop-off. Teams started to figure out Torres as a hitter and shift to his pull-heavy style. Torres constantly adjusted his swing and when one swing wasn’t working, he’d try another, then another, then another. From no leg kick to yes leg kick, to swinging for power, to swinging for contact, Torres tried it all. It made him an inconsistent hitter, one that can carry the Yankees’ batting order for one week while looking worthy of being designated for assignment (DFA) the next.
The shift ban helps the 26-year-old twofold. When he puts the ball in play, something he’s been great at, even during his struggles, he’s going to see more base hits. Teams can’t anticipate the looping fly ball that drops in for a single. Likewise, they can’t prevent the hard grounder as easily, especially if it’s up the middle like his second hit against the Phillies was. More importantly, this rule change takes the pressure off Torres. Now, he can focus on driving the ball. When he makes contact, it will likely result in a hit, and when he makes hard contact, the home run power will return.
The Yankees Will Make Room For Torres in the Lineup
It’s been a difficult balance for manager Aaron Boone when it comes to handling Torres. He wanted to be patient with him and allow him to work through the struggles but at the same time, the right-handed hitter became a liability at the plate. It often resulted in Torres being benched or moved down in the batting order, both of which helped the Yankees but didn’t help him improve as a hitter.
Additionally, Torres isn’t impressive in the field. He plays second base but can’t play the other positions in the infield. When he’s a liability at the plate, there’s a convincing argument to have LeMahieu play second base and bump Torres out of the batting order altogether.
If Torres is going to start hitting again, the Yankees can keep him at second base. While LeMahieu has made the case to be an everyday player as well and the rest of the positions checked off, Torres will remain the starting second baseman. Likewise, he won’t move up to the cleanup spot but he will provide a valuable presence in the back half of the lineup.
Torres has had a roller-coaster career with the Yankees. However, at 26 years old, he has finally found his swing and more importantly doesn’t have to worry about good contact resulting in an out. The 4-2 win showed that Torres might be here to stay and is ready to return to the valuable hitter he was when the Yankees acquired him in 2016.
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