It didn’t take long for Anthony Iapoce to see why Gleyber Torres was surrounded by so much hype.
The Rangers’ hitting coach spent four seasons as the Cubs’ hitting coordinator from 2012-15 and had a front-row seat for the earliest stages of Torres’ professional career, which began in 2013 when he was signed for $1.7 million out of Venezuela at the age of 16.
“Right away, his willingness to ask questions, about himself, about the language, about the organization [stood out],” said Iapoce, a New York City native who starred at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Queens before earning a baseball scholarship to Lamar University. “You saw a 16-year-old kid who wasn’t scared.”
Torres, the centerpiece of the deadline deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs last year, was rising rapidly in the Yankees’ system before his season was cut short last week. He suffered a UCL tear in his left elbow while playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and underwent Tommy John surgery a few days later. He is expected to be ready for spring training.
Iapoce, who worked extensively with Torres the first three years of his minor-league career with the Cubs, predicted in the offseason that the infielder would make it to the big leagues at some point this season. And the 20-year-old, who had a .309/.406/.457 slash line for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when he got hurt, certainly seemed on his way.
Iapoce, now in his second year as the Rangers’ hitting coach, said Torres’ approach is mature beyond his years.
“He doesn’t let his ego get in the way of the situation,” said Iapoce, who will be a featured speaker, along with Yankees third-base coach Joe Espada, on Dec. 11 at the New York Coaches Baseball Clinic at Levittown Division Avenue High School (more information can be found at iapocebaseball.com). “He hunts the hit, he hunts the good at-bats. He’s line to line, he uses the whole field trying to help his team win with team at-bats.”
Torres already is mechanically sound. “His barrel, from a mechanics standpoint, is in the zone as long as anybody,” Iapoce said. “He can drive the ball to rightfield over the fence. You can see over the last year or so he’s been able to open up the pull side a little bit. To take his ego out of the at-bat and do what needs to be done at a young age is tremendous.”
Iapoce, who oversaw one of the top offenses in the American League last season — the AL West champion Rangers ranked fourth with 765 runs in posting a league-best 95-67 record — said Torres’ approach is invaluable to a club.
“It’s when you have those guys and you put multiple guys like that on a team is where your lineup gets deep,” Iapoce said. “He’ll add depth to any lineup, whatever team he’s on. You can tell the guy’s a winner.”