ORLANDO, Fla. — Hyped Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres entered spring training with zero chance of making the big-league club out of camp, regardless of performance. That will not be the case next year.
The 20-year-old’s season ended with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 17 when he suffered a torn left ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery. Many still consider Torres the top position prospect in the sport, and he will be given a chance to win the starting job at third base.
“I think it’s Headley’s more to defend,” Brian Cashman said Tuesday on the second day of the annual general managers’ meetings.
That would be Chase Headley, entering the final year of a four-year, $52-million contract. Headley lost his job at the trade deadline when the Yankees brought in Todd Frazier, a free agent for whom they have little to no interest. That leaves Headley as the presumed starter, but he will be pushed in camp by Torres and possibly Miguel Andujar, who plays only third.
When Cashman was asked if he would be comfortable entering 2018 with Headley starting at third, he said, “Yeah. And then, we have the pups who want to take a shot at it at the same time.”
Torres, who also can play second base and shortstop, is the most intriguing name in the near term. He was the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline. Torres had an electrifying spring training in 2017, producing a .448/.469/.931 slash line in 19 games before being sent to minor-league camp. He started the season with Double-A Trenton but was promoted May 21 to Triple A. After compiling a .304/.404/.443 slash line with two homers, three doubles, a triple and 16 RBIs in 22 games, he injured his elbow diving head first at the plate.
Torres, who turns 21 Dec. 13, recently began baseball activities, and the expectation is he’ll be completely recovered well before spring training.
“I know last year everybody, coaching staff included, was saying this guy’s ready to go,” Cashman said. “We said, ‘No, no, no, he hasn’t played above A-ball yet.’ Obviously, that’s changed. He’s in a better position than a year ago, but he’s coming off an injury. We’ll see what it looks like.”
One opposing team talent evaluator who has watched Torres for several years said he wouldn’t be shocked to see him prevail in any competition he’s part of. “Winning player,” the scout said. “The way he goes about his business, everything. The total package.”
Although Starlin Castro, an All-Star last season, seems entrenched at second, trading him can’t be ruled out.
“We’ll just see how the winter plays out with it all,” Cashman said. “The easy thing to say is Gleyber comes to major-league camp and competes but starts at Triple-A because that’s the safest route. But I’m not denying anybody the chance to make the club and push their way into the mix.”
That also goes for Clint Frazier, the 23-year-old outfielder who showed some pop after his call-up last season. Cashman said he likely will be “blocked” from the big leagues by Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury to start the season, but circumstances can change.
“Whether it’s Gleyber Torres, whether it’s Andujar, whether it’s Clint Frazier,” Cashman said. “Those guys are all serving notice on the more established players that ‘Don’t sleep on us because we’re trying to take what you’ve got.’ ”