In a game that rarely gives second chances, Luis Torrens is getting his first real shot at the big league level with the San Diego Padres.
Just hours after jumping into the arms of Amarillo’ relief pitcher Travis Radke in the wake of a Texas League Championship, catcher Luis Torrens found himself in an airport but not to go home. The champagne hadn’t even dried on his “Freedom for Venezuela” shirt when the Sod Poodles catcher was told he would be headed to Milwaukee. On his way back to the major leagues for the first time since 2017, and this time it wasn’t because of one of baseball’s oddest rules.
If you have been around the game awhile, then you probably know that Torrens was apart of a Yankee prospect list that included the likes of Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and fellow catcher Gary Sanchez.
New York’s ninth-ranked prospect at the time was even ranked ahead of current Bronx Bomber Miguel Andujar who was tenth on the prospect list. The remarkable thing about Torrens is that he had to make a significant change to his game when the Yankees signed him in 2012. The team decided to convert the 16-year-old from shortstop to catcher, “The Yankees converted me after I was signed in 2012 and it was a tough transition because you have to learn a whole new part of the game.” Torrens said. The former shortstop spent the first few years of his career with the Bronx Bombers until 2016 dealing with a flurry of injuries in his time there.
Despite showing promise when healthy the Yankees left Torrens unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft, and with the second pick, the Cincinnati Reds took the catcher, immediately trading him to the Padres. Given the Rule 5 Draft parameters, he would have to remain on the Padres 25-man roster for the entirety of 2017 to retain his rights.
At just 20 years of age, Luis Torrens was promoted from New York’s Single-A to San Diego’s major league roster without having played an out above his current level. As you would expect the young prospect struggled to find his footing with the club, receiving a total of 31 starts behind the plate and batting only .162 throughout his time with the club recording only three extra-base hits. Being on a level that high at such a young age was a little bit of culture shock for the young catcher, but he maintained his wits and did what he knew that he needed for his future, “Looking back it was a nice time because I saw a lot of new things that I hadn’t experienced before. You know I had to make the jump from Single-A, and it was a huge jump. All of a sudden, I was playing with the best players in the world. So I made sure that I was learning to be ready for the next time that I would go up there,” Torrens explains.
The next offseason the catcher would play in the Venezuelan League to try and get back to the level he had just got a taste of.“It was very important to me because I went to Venezuela to try and improve defensively. That was exciting for me. I tried to make the adjustment every day and watch videos of not just me but of the best to make myself better. I just wanted to improve,” Torrens said, “It was like the big leagues because I was gathering information and there’s just so many veteran players like Ronny Cedeno, Carlos Zambrano, and a lot of others. It’s very competitive, and when you’re playing in your city, it makes it that much better.” That city is Valencia, Venezuela where he grew up idolizing Miguel Cabrera, and now he is on the same level. Torrens went back to Venezuela, wanting to improve defensively.
The hard work paid off as he continued to climb his way back to his dream. Torrens threw out 45.6% of baserunners in Double-A Amarillo this season Seeing an increase of 11.9% from the year before in High-A Lake Elsinore while leading all minor league catchers in defensive runs saved and also dropping his number of passed balls by 14 in the same number of games. As impressive as he was on defense this season in Amarillo, the catcher was equally impressive on offense posting a slash line of .300/.373/.500 with a .873 OPS (appearing in the top five in the Texas League in every one of those categories). The Texas League All-Star also hit .363 with runners in scoring position, while being the most productive catcher in the Texas League offensively and defensively.
It’s worth mentioning that the catcher is doing this with the minor league ball as opposed to the newer ball that they continue to use in Triple-A. This new baseball resulted in a considerable jump in offensive production for the level. Torrens profiles as someone who’s plate discipline the Padres covet as he doesn’t strike out a lot, having excellent strike-zone recognition. Torrens walked 42 times and struck out only 67 times in 97 games for Amarillo. To put the strikeouts into perspective, top ten prospect Hudson Potts played in ten more games than Torrens and recorded almost double (128) the number of strikeouts that the Amarillo catcher did. With his new set of skill, he might be an asset that the Padres could use moving forward.
The catcher will be the eleventh Sod Poodle to make an appearance for the Padres this season when he plays his first game of the year. No Sod Poodle made an impact on the season as Torrens did in his time in Amarillo. The native Venezuelan is back at the big league level and ready to show the Padres that he deserves a place on the big league club.