2016 In Review: Ronald Torreyes

Preseason Expectations

What expectations? Ronald Torreyes was essentially a warm body in camp, joining his fifth organization in the past year after the Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Angels. Oh, and did I mention that the Yankees had lost him on waivers before re-claiming him? He was initially acquired from the Dodgers in a trade, but was eventually designated for assignment. The Yankees clearly liked him enough to bring him back after initially letting him go, but at the same time, didn’t find him so important that they couldn’t risk cutting him the first time.

Despite his journeyman status as a 23 year-old rookie, there was some reason for mild intrigue according to Chris’ KATOH system. In January, KATOH ranked Torreyes the 52nd best prospect in baseball with a 5.2 WAR projection through his first six seasons. This pegging came as a surprise, of course, but Torreyes did (and still does) one thing very well: put the ball in play. He never posted a strikeout rate higher than 8.6% during extended play in the minors. If he could provide average defense, perhaps the Yankees had found a useful reserve infielder that wouldn’t embarrass himself at the plate.

ZiPS foresaw a .268/.302/.351 batting line with an 8.0% strikeout rate and above average defense. Even with the rave reviews from KATOH and the optimistic (in my opinion) ZiPS projection, I can’t say I had any strong feelings about Torreyes entering 2016, and I suspect many others didn’t as well.

What Happened

Somehow, Torreyes not only survived the 40-man roster all season, but he also remained on the major league roster from Opening Day until the final out of the season. What were the odds of that? Slim, to say the least, but he deserved it.

As you might remember, Torreyes started the season with 6 knocks in his first 9 at-bats. He cooled off considerably thereafter, but it wasn’t the last strong stretch of play for the vertically challenged Venezuelan. In late August, Torreyes temporarily stole the third base job from Chase Headley. Not because Chase had played poorly, but because Torreyes had a mini hot streak while Headley nursed a day-to-day injury. After a four-for-four game in Anaheim that included his first (and only) career home run, Torreyes played in seven games over the next nine days. He hit .538/.571/.885 during that short span.

I’m not sure why there isn’t an individual video of Torreyes’ first home run on MLB.com, but it’s within the highlight video below.

Statistically, he essentially performed up to what the projection systems anticipated. With a .258/.305/.374 triple-slash and an 11.9% strikeout rate, Torreyes met his on-base forecast and struck out more than expected, but surprised with a tad more pop. By the eye test, he was fine defensively.

Lastly, this was pretty great:

Looking Ahead

Even after a job well done in 2016, is anyone convinced he’ll spend all season with the Yankees again next year? It wouldn’t be surprising to see him break camp as the bench infielder, but I wouldn’t count on him going wire-to-wire on the big league roster once more. The Yankees won’t have to pay him much more than the minimum salary and will retain the right to send him to the minors at will, making it easy for them to replace him if need be. And if an upgrade comes around, Torreyes’ solid 2016 won’t be able to keep him afloat.

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