For the first time in the 28-year history of its list of the top 100 prospects in the game, both the New York Mets and Yankees have a player ranked in the top ten heading into the current season. The Mets have shortstop Amed Rosario and the Yankees have shortstop Gleyber Torres. In 1996, Mets right-hander Paul Wilson ranked second, while Yankees outfielder Ruben Rivera was third and some kid shortstop named Derek Jeter was sixth. In 2003, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes was third with Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras came in at number six and outfielder Hideki Matsui was eighth.
Torres: Born December 13, 1996 in Caracas, Venezuela. Torres signed with the Chicago Cubs as an International free agent on July 2, 2013. He was acquired by the Yankees on July 25, 2016, as part of the package for Aroldis Chapman. Torres is listed at 6’1”, 175 and is a right-handed hitter as well as thrower.
Rosario: Born November 20, 1995 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Rosario signed with the Mets as an International free agent on July 2, 2012. He is listed at 6’2”, 190 and is a right-handed hitter and thrower.
Professional Careers to Date
Torres began his professional career in 2014 playing 43 games for the Cubs’ Rookie League team in Mesa, Arizona. He has progressed normally (one classification jump per season); playing Low A in 2015, High-A in 2016 and is currently with the Yankees’ Double-A team in Trenton, New Jersey. Through 2016 Torres had played 300 career games, all but one at shortstop. He’s slashed .280/.355/.404 overall. Defensively, on paper at least, he’s played to a slightly above average range factor. His fielding percentage of .947 is well below average which leads to the idea most of his errors are of the throwing variety. The Yankees have said Torres will see time at both second and third base this season, an indication shortstop won’t be part of his major league future.
Rosario began his professional career in 2013 with Kingsport in the Rookie Appalachian League. Like Torres, he has progressed one classification per season. He is currently with Triple-A Las Vegas. Through 2016, Rosario has slashed .280/.328/388 over 358 career games, all but two at shortstop. Defensively he is also similar to Torres in the sense his range is above average but his fielding percentage is well below average again leading to the belief most of his errors come on throws.
The rating of tools is a subjective exercise, each scout or evaluator can see things differently in the same player. Tools play differently at the various positions as well. It’s more important for a shortstop to have a good arm than a left-fielder, an average arm at short would be plus in left and so on. Tools are the physical gifts a person is born with; you can’t make Adam Dunn run like Billy Hamilton for example. Tools are not statistical; a player’s hit tool doesn’t vary year to year based on his batting average.
The five tools are hitting, hitting with power, fielding, throwing, and speed. For a shortstop, in order, they are fielding, throwing, hitting, speed and power.
For this exercise, we’ll talk about the tools in order of importance. Since each player is a shortstop it should be easier to paint a picture in your mind of what each guy brings to the table now and in the future.
Many of the media evaluators will lead you to believe Rosario is the superior defender but the numbers, both traditional and sabermetric, say they are pretty similar. Rosario is longer and leaner than Torres which makes his fielding actions seem smoother and more normal to the eye. Torres really isn’t six foot one either, so his stockier figure makes him seem out of place compared to Rosario. In my viewings of Torres, his defensive actions seem forced instead of instinctive; Rosario has his moments too in this regard but overall seems much more like a natural shortstop.
From the conversations I’ve had with my network, there were some of the opinion that once Rosario defensively matures he could be a Gold Glove caliber defender at the major league level. Gold Glove awards are just as subjective as prospect rankings but I’ve never heard that said about Torres. We also have to consider the fact the Yankees have begun the phasing of Torres off of shortstop at the Double-A level which is an indication their development staff believes this is the best course of action for him to reach the majors.
Again, both ideas are just that, opinions of what may happen two or three years down the road, but it’s something to watch develop.
With all that said, I think it’s safe to say right now the defensive similarities between the two are pretty close. When projecting to the majors, Rosario gets the nod as the better defender.
Ask any scout and they’ll tell you the most subjective of the five tools is throwing and it’s the most lacking at the major league level. Not many guys can throw like Cory Snyder or Rafael Furcal. With shortstop being arguably the most impactful defensive position it’s imperative your shortstop has some ability with the arm.
When a shortstop makes a throw moving to his glove side that’s a momentum throw. Your arm plays up because your movement is making the throw, not necessarily the arm. When scouting a shortstop you want to focus on his throws going away from his target, to his right side. If a shortstop can make a play to his right, plant his back foot and make a strong throw, that’s purely an arm throw. Again, picture Furcal.
In my viewings, I’m of the opinion neither Rosario nor Torres has an arm close to the caliber of Furcal although the both seem to throw well enough for the position. What we need to find out though is what causes their throwing errors; is it transition related, is it just showing off and making ill-advised throws or just a lack of arm strength which can lead to poor release which leads to issues with carry and trajectory.
I wouldn’t give either player an edge over the other when it comes to throwing, I would say average to average plus at best.
It used to be the shortstop was like the catcher, they were in the lineup because of their defense, not their offense. Ozzie Smith isn’t in the Hall of Fame because of anything he did with his bat, that’s for sure. The game today is different, especially with the designated hitter in the American League and the overall focus is now on offense which magnifies the contributions from each spot in the lineup.
In looking at their respective spray charts online they both seem to be similar hitters in the sense they favor the right side of the field despite being right-handed hitters. The red flag with me is with Torres; he hits more balls in the air to the right side; he hits like a lefthander. I saw the same thing in the Arizona Fall League. Trying to pull everything leads to some weak pop flies to the opposite field if you’re even a fraction late. There are other factors to consider, of course, the better pitching, and too much movement at the beginning of the swing leading to a late swing or just a lack of bat speed.
Rosario hits more balls to the right side than does Torres, albeit with more groundballs and line drives. As the numbers above indicate, their averages are identical despite Torres having a slightly higher slugging percentage which points to Rosario taking advantage of a larger field of play.
I believe Torres will have to make some changes in his approach at the major league level. He won’t get the same number of mistakes he does in the minors meaning his average and power numbers will drop. I think Rosario’s natural approach to hitting will play at the major league level, he puts the ball in play more and while he won’t have the power numbers some believe Torres will he’ll be enough of a threat in the lineup for opposing pitchers.
Speed is the only tool that translates on both sides of the ball but we have to be careful how we categorize it. Billy Hamilton is one of the fastest players in baseball and he began his career as a shortstop. Hamilton is now a centerfielder because while he had speed, he didn’t have the range to play short. They are different. Range is reacting naturally to the ball. Cal Ripken Jr. was a 6’5” 230-pound shortstop who could make every play at short, yet was devoid of foot speed.
On the speed scale, I’ve seen Rosario clocked at 6.6 seconds in the sixty-yard dash and Torres at 6.5 seconds. On the 20-80 scouting scale both of those times would grade at a 70 which is plus. Admittedly, both those times were recorded before either of them signed so they may have come down a notch since. It’s clear either way both have game changing speed. Where these guys are going to factor in offensively are on the balls in the gap or near the line that might be singles for an average runner could become doubles or triples.
To date, neither player has shown a propensity for stolen bases but once they get to the majors and learn how to read pitchers and game situations that should change. Both should be able to steal 30 plus bases a season with a high success rate.
Power is the least important tool for a shortstop and it’s a good thing, as neither guy will have much at the majors. Torres plays in a hitter-friendly home ballpark so he could approach 20 homers or so during his prime. That will be more of an environmental number than an ability number. Entering 2016, Rosario had 10 career homers in almost 1400 plate appearances. With him playing half his games in pitcher-friendly CitiField I can’t see him being taken seriously as a power threat.
If I was the General Manager of a rebuilding team such as the Padres or Phillies and could have one of these guys in my lineup 150 games a year for the next ten years, I’d take Rosario without much thought. The opinions I’ve gathered on Torres point to him being an outfielder at the major league level. If he projects, he could be a right-handed Brett Gardner which isn’t a bad player, but unlike money, those guys actually do grow on trees. There’s an old saying in scouting that there’s no such thing as a second base prospect. Most guys who end up at the position do so because they were not major league caliber players at their primary position. If Torres ends up here then his current status or ranking as a prospect is severely overstated. I look at Torres this way; I think he ends up a utility guy capable of playing both infield and outfield. If the Yanks got their way he wouldn’t be a Yankee; they wanted Javier Baez, who fills that utility role with the Cubs now and is a superior player.
Those I trust and respect believe Rosario has the potential to be a game-changing defensive player. Mets’ fans undoubtedly remember the Rey Ordonez era. Rosario may not be as good defensively but will certainly be offensively, which is a pretty good player. The hope with Rosario is that he hits enough to stay in the lineup, and defensive impact. Time will eventually tell us that story. Shortstop is arguably the most important position on the diamond. We are looking at a generational class of young players now; Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Xander Bogaerts, even Manny Machado started as a shortstop. I’m not suggesting in any way Rosario is worthy of this class but he doesn’t have to be. He could be Didi Gregorius. You don’t think Mets’ fans would take him right now? Of course, they would.
I hope Torres comes up in a year or two and helps the team win, but this isn’t a fanboy piece. It’s about who likely will be the better major league player.
I’ll take Rosario, thank-you.