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-1.) Gleyber Torres first enters the back of my consciousness sometime in the spring or summer of 2013. He’s one of the biggest July 2 international free agents of that cycle, and the Cubs are one of the first teams to jump through the loophole in the old July 2 free agency rules and blow far past their international spending cap. The top-rated prospects of that class are Eloy Jimenez and Torres; the Cubs sign them both for seven figures each, plus dozens of others.

After an aggressive 2014 stateside assignment, Torres made his full-season debut in 2015 to rave reviews, but the Midwest League isn’t driveable, and Gleyber Torres isn’t the type of prospect you plan trips around quite yet. In 2016, though, the Cubs’ High-A affiliate is in the Carolina League, and I’m only a couple hours from Wilmington…

0.) The Myrtle Beach Pelicans come through Wilmington three times in 2016. The first time is Mother’s Day weekend, and that’s not a viable weekend trip for me. The second time is the weekend of the Baseball Prospectus event at Citi Field, so that’s a no go. But there’s a third trip in August that I circle on the calendar. Gleyber Torres is traded to the Yankees about a month before that trip, which is bad news for my immediate plans to see him, but great for future plans: he’ll almost certainly be ticketed for Double-A Trenton in 2017, just a little over a half-hour’s drive from me.

By the time Torres reaches Trenton to begin 2017, I’ve already seen him on television a bunch in the Futures Game, the Arizona Fall League, and spring training. Television looks aren’t a match for game action, but they certainly can give you a little familiarity with the player. Torres looks like a fine hitting prospect, in that “maybe” bucket where he might be a future MLB shortstop but might be a future 2B or 3B too. The trade to the Yankees probably pushes the needle a bit to the 2B/3B side, simply because of the presence of Didi Gregorius.

1.) Trenton starts the season on a long road trip. I’m sitting on the Lakewood/Greensboro series on the first weekend of local minor-league games, but I sneak on over to Trenton for the Friday April 14th night game against Portland. I wanted to start getting a foundation of looks at Torres, along with an updated Rafael Devers look, plus the Trey Ball/Yefry Ramirez pitching matchup looked a little intriguing.

The first thing I notice about Gleyber Torres is that he’s not a big, physical dude. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, and I suspect there might be the usual amounts of height inflation there. Nothing about his body stands out, and there’s no obvious blowaway physical tool. He’s sort of the anti-Yoan Moncada. When he ambles up to the plate, the second thing I notice is that he’s got a bit of a bat wrap in his setup. It’s not a disqualifier or anything, but it means he’s got a longer path to the ball than you’d ideally like. Torres takes an 0-for against Trey Ball. Despite that, I note that I really like his approach at the plate and actions in the field, but little stands out about the bat. It’s one game, and I’ll get plenty more games on him.

2.) I come back the following Tuesday for another look at Torres, plus one of the minor’s top early-season pitching matchups in Sean Reid-Foley vs. Justus Sheffield. Between getting in my car and getting to the park, Torres scratches out of the lineup with what is later revealed to be biceps tendinitis. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t show too hot in the first look? This is why I try not to evaluate guys based on a single look unless it’s really obvious: you don’t always know what a player has going on. Torres would go on to miss a couple weeks.

3.) He’d be back well in time for another premiere Trenton pitching matchup, Sheffield vs. Erick Fedde on May 11th. Fedde is already a MLB-quality RHP or close; just a few days after this start the Nats would move him to the bullpen because they think he can help the MLB team contend soon. In the fourth inning, it all clicked for me in one at-bat: Torres flicks his bat out late, his hands get around so fast, and the ball ends up gapped with serious sting to the wall in right-center. At this point I realize this is a guy with killer wrists creating elite bat speed and serious pop to go along with the aforementioned strong plate approach. The rest of it barely matters.

4.) Eight days later I get nudged into checking out Trenton/Portland again for a second look at Ball, this time against recent promotee to Trenton and big velocity/helium guy Domingo Acevedo. Torres has remained lightning hot since returning from injury, and is already starting to get mentioned for a potential big league look in place of the struggling Chase Headley. I also get my rear end going realizing that Torres might not be in Trenton much longer, and wanting to confirm that the bat is as good as I am now thinking it is.

Torres came up in the third inning with the bases loaded, Ball having been let down repeatedly by a iffy defense. Ball threw a decent slider that got just a little too much of the plate. Torres hit it well over the 407 mark to dead-center, around halfway up the back retaining wall that protects the Route 29 tunnel and the parking lot from monster hitters like Gleyber Torres. I’ve seen well over a hundred games at ARM & HAMMER Park, and I’ve never seen a ball hit that high up the wall in dead-center in the course of regular play. The ball just doesn’t carry like that out there.

Two days later, Torres is promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He posted an impressive .273/.367/.496 line as a 20-year-old in Double-A, in a park that favors hitters. And despite coming in as a skeptic, I am convinced that he’s one of the top prospects in the game.

Gleyber Torres

Born: 12/13/1996 (Age: 20)
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 175
Primary Position: SS
Secondary Position: 3B
Physical/Health
Might be shorter and heavier than listed. Athletic and powerfully built with a little projectability left to the body.
Evaluator Jarrett Seidler
Report Date 05/31/2017
Dates Seen 4/14, 5/11, 5/19
Affiliate Trenton Thunder (AA, Yankees)
MLB ETA Risk Factor OFP Realistic Role Video
2017 Low 70 60, first-division infielder No
Tool Future Grade Report
Hit 60 Some of the quickest hands and wrists I've ever seen, which easily overcomes a moderate bat wrap. Advanced and disciplined plate approach combines with the quick trigger to give him that extra fraction of a tick to make a decision. You would never teach a guy to hit like this intentionally, but it really works.
Power 60 Hits the ball very hard and sometimes hits it very far. Game power has been limited thus far in career, with a high of 11 homers in 2016, but it seems to be coming fast.
Baserunning/Speed 50 Average or a tick below down the line. Plays up in game scenarios; put up 20-steal seasons in 2015 and 2016, albeit at a terrible clip for the minors.
Glove 55 Actions, range, and reliability are all just good enough to give him a shot to stay at short with continued improvement. Ideal projection for me would be at second, where it would all look well above-average. Organizational needs may kick him over to third; did not get a look at him there, but given that he's a reactive player with great hand-eye coordination in other areas, that should also be a reasonable landing spot for him.
Arm 55 He's got a shortstop's arm strength. Accuracy can be a bit scattershot, and his release can get a little elongated. Overall, arm plays more than enough for second and should be fine at third.
Overall

Potential star with already advanced skills that grant him a higher realistic floor than most in the minors. One of the five or ten best prospects in the minors, no matter where he ends up on the dirt.