Born in Venezuela and signed by the Oakland Athletics as an international free agent in 2010, 24-year-old, left-hander Jose Torres has been with the Padres since being acquired alongside Drew Pomeranz following the 2015 season.
Originally used as a starter, Torres made 11 starts and threw 49 and two-thirds innings in rookie ball for the Athletics. Torres walked nearly as many batters as he struck out, although he did limit home runs and found himself with a respectable ERA and FIP (3.99 and 3.46 respectively). Torres spent the entirety of the next season in rookie ball, but he had more issues with a high walk rate and he saw his ERA and FIP both climb.
Torres spent the next two seasons in short-season ball, throwing under 100 innings with an FIP just shy of 4.00 in each year.
Although he did get his walk problem somewhat under control, his home run rate raised a little too much, as he was throwing too many pitches in the middle of the zone. Following the 2014 season, Torres would not make another start as a professional pitcher. In 2015, Torres spent most of the season in Low-A, making 44 appearances in total. After having an up and down go of it as a starter, things finally seemed to click for Torres in the bullpen. Not only did he post the highest strikeout rate of his career (26.7 percent), but he also posted the lowest walk rate of his career (7.7 percent) as well as a much better groundball rate (just over 50 percent). Torres was still finding issues with the home run ball, although he still posted a solid 2.69 ERA.
Following this successful season, Torres found himself on his way to San Diego alongside Drew Pomeranz in the trade that sent Yonder Alonso to Oakland.
Torres had a substantial rise through the Padres’ system in 2016, starting the year in High-A before ending it in San Diego with a cup of coffee. After having not nearly as much success in High-A as he had in Low-A the previous year, Torres turned heads with a 1.24 ERA in 36 and a third innings in Double-A. Not only did Torres post solid strikeout-walk ratios, but he also cut down on his home run problem. After two and two-thirds innings in Triple-A, Torres pitched three scoreless innings at the big league level to finish the season.
Going into 2017, the Padres’ front office was ready to give Torres the chance to sink or swim in the big leagues. All told, Torres appeared in 62 games, throwing 68 and a third innings with a 4.21 ERA.
Despite posting the lowest walk rate of his career, Torres ran into trouble, mainly because of the highest home run rate of his career. With nearly as many home runs as walks (13 to 16), Torres seemed to struggle to consistently get batters out. Torres’ fastball was clearly his best pitch, but he struggled with his slider for most of the season. It seems like Torres could find a great deal of success if he is able to cut down on his home runs given up.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
2018 Steamer Projections: 45 innings pitched, 23.6% strikeout rate, 9.1% walk rate, 4.01 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 0.2 fWAR
For 2018, Steamer projects Torres to have a very similar season to the one he had in 2017. Both his strikeout and walk rates, as well as ERA and FIP, project to be pretty in line with what Torres had last year. However, Steamer does project a slight decline in Torres’ home run rate. If Torres can make some adjustments, and cut his home run rate, he should be able to put up respectable numbers in 2018 and beyond.
Thinking long-term, Torres should be a solid piece for the Padres’ bullpen for the next few years. With improvements, Torres has the chance to be more than just a left-handed specialist, as he was better against right-handers than left-handers in 2017. At least in the short-term, Torres will be given plenty of chances to prove himself in 2018 and beyond.