Signed out of Venezuela in July of 2012 for $1.3 million, the then 16-year-old Luis Torrens was a bit of an under-the-radar guy from the beginning.
Originally signed as a shortstop, the 6-foot, 175-pound youngster was quickly shifted to catcher by the Yankees, where has played all his professional innings to date. Almost immediately after being shifted, Torrens showed his aptitude for his new position, as he has used his strong throwing arm, quick feet, and good hands to become a solid all-around catcher. There have been some hiccups with receiving, as it is a new position for him, but overall, Torrens has made great strides defensively over the course of his short professional career.
In his first taste of professional ball in 2013, Torrens looked solid enough at the plate, slashing .241/.348/.299, although he didn’t show any real power over 204 plate appearances, with just eight extra-base hits. The 2014 season was a different story, as Torrens spent much of the year in short season ball and made great strides with the bat, slashing .270/.327/.405, and making across the board improvements. Although his on-base percentage did take a hit, spurred by a six percent drop in walk rate from Rookie ball, Torrens had 18 extra base hits in short-season alone. Altogether, he had 20 extra base hits in over 200 plate appearances in 2014 split between rookie ball, short season, and Low-A.
However, then injury struck, with Torrens tearing his labrum in March of 2015 and missing the entirety of the 2015 season. Despite such a strong showing in 2014, Torrens’ development was stalled. Prior to the injury, Torrens was ranked among the Yankees top-10 prospects by Baseball America. Even with the injury, Torrens came back even stronger in 2016. Because of his injury, Torrens started the year with 50 plate appearances back in short-season ball, and he didn’t disappoint, slashing .311/.360/.400 and, perhaps most importantly, still showing a little bit of extra base power. Torrens finished his season with 40 games and over 160 plate appearances in Low-A, slashing a not as good .230/.348/.317. Given his downtick in performance at the higher level, the Yankees kept him unprotected in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, where he was selected by the San Diego Padres.
To say 2017 was a rough year for Luis Torrens is an understatement. Skipping three minor league levels, Torrens saw playing time in 56 games for the Padres, accumulating 139 plate appearances in total. His performance was expectedly dreadful, as the young catcher slashed just .163/.243/.203 with just four extra-base hits. Although his power seemed to start to show in the minor leagues, it was nowhere to be found in the big leagues. In fairness to Torrens, the 21-year-old was clearly overmatched by the much more advanced pitching.
The bigger concern was Torrens’ defense, as he was easily the worst defensive catcher to get big league playing time for the Padres last year. Torrens struggled with his pitch framing numbers and also had a tendency to have too many passed balls. Given that catcher is still a relatively new position for him, he’s caught under 1,500 innings to date, it’s important to cut him some slack. Despite the struggles and question marks, the Padres stuck with the young catcher, and he made it all the way through the season and he now finds himself on the team, hopefully long term.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
As I say with just about every young player, it’s hard to project long term with Luis Torrens. With that being said, it’s pretty easy to guess that Torrens won’t see any big league playing time in 2018. Given Torrens’ struggles, there are still quite a few things he can work on in the minor leagues. And at only 21 years old, he has plenty of time to figure those things out. If I had to guess, I would say Torrens probably starts the year in Lake Elsinore now that Austin Allen is out of the picture.
With a dearth of catching talent at the upper levels of the system outside of Allen, Torrens could be a quick mover if he can show a more refined approach behind the plate and a better feel at the plate. It’s clear the Padres see something special in him, and he will have every chance to be a part of the team’s long term plans. However, if he isn’t quick to develop this season, the Padres may be forced to make a decision on his future early, especially given how precious 40-man roster spots are, and how many upper level prospects the Padres have knocking on the door. In a 40-man roster logjam, Torrens could find himself as the odd man out.