Impressive offseason brings Majors dream closer for Torres

Yankees' No. 2 prospect, 20, wins MVP after pacing AFL in hitting

Impressive offseason brings Majors dream closer for Torres

NEW YORK -- Once Gleyber Torres gets his call to the Majors, any dates with the Mariners figure to be prominently circled on the calendar. The Yankees' touted prospect says that he wants a piece of King Felix.

"I'd like to face Felix Hernandez," Torres told in Spanish. "He and I are friends, and we train together. When we work out, he always tells me that he's going to strike me out and I tell him no, my first home run is going to be off him. We have a good relationship, so that's the pitcher I'd like to face when I get to the big leagues."

A chance at that showdown with the former Cy Young Award winner should come in the near future. Torres recently participated in MLB/MLBPA's Rookie Career Development Program, coming off a sensational Arizona Fall League that saw him presented with the league's Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award.

Those honors were deserved after Torres -- who turned 20 in December -- led the AFL with a .403 average, becoming the youngest batting champion in the league's history. Playing for Scottsdale, Torres paced the circuit in on-base percentage (.513) and OPS (1.158), finishing second in slugging (.645).

Yankees encouraged by Torres

"That was one of the biggest awards I've won," Torres said. "I was really excited and proud to win those two awards, being so young. I felt super excited to do it representing the Yankees and my country, which is the most important thing. Those are stages in my career that I'm never going to forget, and I'll always be proud to have won those awards."

Torres signed with the Cubs for $1.7 million out of Venezuela in 2013, then came to the Yankees as the key piece in the Aroldis Chapman trade on July 25.

"I was a little surprised. I didn't expect the trade," Torres said. "I had heard rumors that I was going to get traded, but I really hadn't paid that much attention to them. When I got the news, I was pretty surprised. But at the same time, I was excited, because some new doors were opening for me, a new opportunity."

Torres spent all of 2016 in the pitcher-friendly Class A Advanced Florida State League, where he produced a .270/.354/.421 batting line with 11 homers in 125 games between Myrtle Beach and Tampa. The Yankees aren't planning on him making it to the Majors in 2017, though they aren't exactly ruling it out.

"We've been very excited about this young kid ever since we've had him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He went out and played at a very, very high level with kids that are older than him, with kids that played at a higher level than him. He was one of the kids that really shined. I think that really bodes well for us, and I look forward to seeing him."

Mayo on prospect Gleyber Torres

Torres is ranked No. 17 on's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 in the Yankees' system, behind outfielder Clint Frazier. Torres projects to begin the 2017 season with Double-A Trenton, where he is expected to serve as the everyday shortstop.

"I was always concentrating on hitting, but in the last few years, I've improved my defense," Torres said. "I've worked extra to improve on some details that were missing from my game and, thank God, those things have improved.

"I've put a lot of focus on offense, because that's going to help me to be brought up more quickly. I always prepare before games at each practice to be better each and every day and not make as many errors as in previous years."

Torres dabbled at second base during the Fall League, playing seven of 16 games there after playing just once there during the Minor League season. That added versatility could help accelerate his progress to the big leagues, and Torres is eager to show what he can do during his first full year in the organization.

"The dream of any ballplayer is to play for the New York Yankees," Torres said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.