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February 27, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Torres (56) throws a pitch in the second inning during a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Scouting Notes From Spring Training: Alex Torres and Alex Colome

This past weekend, I got to take a live look at the Rays for three spring training games and while I was there I took scouting notes on every player I possibly could. Today will talk about Alex Torres, who pitched this past Friday for the Rays, and Alex Colome, who pitched on Saturday night.

Alex Torres has the stuff to excite you and the inconsistency to make you lose your mind. Friday was no exception. Torres, a lefty, went 2 innings, allowing just 1 hit while striking out 1, but walking 3 including 1 that forced in a run. Torres was all over the place all day. He showed two fastballs, a changeup, and a breaking ball that I called a slider, and none of those pitches were consistent.

Torres ranged from 91-95 on the board with his fastballs, one of which featured late tailing movement towards right-handed batters while the other one featured late sink. We’ll distinguish them here as his fastball and his sinker. With his fastball, Torres worked primarily at 91 MPH with nice run and it was a dominating pitch when he was able to locate it, which was not nearly as often as he would like. When Torres reached back for more velocity, he had absolutely no control. The sinker was a very interesting pitch for Torres because it had such dynamic late sink that it at times looked like a cutter. He threw it primarily in the 92-93 MPH range with a few 91′s, and when hitters actually swung at it, they put the ball on the ground if they made contact at all. The problem was that Torres continually missed with it down in the zone, and since he was always behind in the count and the hitters basically started to assume he couldn’t throw a strike. Torres features a very deceptive delivery and hitters couldn’t really pick up the ball well against him, leading to just one hit. However, hitters were able to draw three walks against him pretty much simply by taking pitches and taking sinkers that started low in the zone, knowing their late movement would make them balls, and basically assuming his fastball would never be a strike. When Torres was in the zone with his fastballs, they were excellent pitches, but that was the case less than half the time. Torres needs to realize that even if he places his fastballs within the zone, their late movement will make them awfully hard for hitters to square up.

This isn’t a case of a pitcher nibbling at the corners. Torres simply cannot repeat his delivery. We saw that from the movement on his fastballs. A couple of times, Torres threw a hybrid of his sinker and fastball at 91 MPH that might have been his best pitches of the day because not only did they have excellent late movement down and in to a righty, but he was actually able to locate them. But those pitches were by complete accident because he got on top of the baseball more in his delivery and threw from a high three-quarters arm slot (I would give you his usual arm slot for comparison, but he was all over the place). At the end of the day, I don’t think Torres even needs the deception because his pitches have such dynamic movement. If he could simply throw strikes with any consistency, he could be an excellent pitcher. But there’s a good chance it’s already too late.

Torres was clearly working on (and failing with) his fastball during the course of this outing, but his primary secondary pitches were his changeup and a breaking ball that Pitch F/X from the 2011 regular season calls a curveball but I saw as more of a slider, possibly because he was overthrowing it. Torres’ changeup was his best pitch on the day, ranging from 81-84 MPH with one 88 when he overthrew it. Torres’ changeup features nice late sink, and he was able to locate it down in the zone often enough to expand the zone a little bit with it and get a swing and miss. Torres’ changeup was the only pitch that looked anything like a plus pitch consistently on Friday. Torres’ breaking ball stayed in the 82-83 MPH range with outstanding bite, but Torres had a lot of trouble making it look anything like a strike. Torres threw his slider for a strike just one of the three times he threw it, and on that occasion it flashed plus-plus almost like a Matt Moore curveball and forced a swing and miss. In order for his slider to be an effective pitch for him, Torres is either going to have to make it look more like a strike or get the dominating movement, something that seems unlikely because of his inability to repeat his delivery.

At his best on Friday, Alex Torres showed three, even four plus pitches with deception and hitters simply had no read on his pitches’ movement. But even if hitters were completely fooled by his fastball, sinker, and a changeup the entire day, Torres could not locate his fastball and sinker often enough for strikes to avoid getting into trouble. Alex Torres led the Triple-A International League in strikeouts this past season. He has a dominating arsenal. But he also led the loop in walks and he’s simply an enigma that may never have enough control to be effective as a starter in the major leagues. Who knows how good Torres can be if he can actually learn repeat his delivery and manage at least decent, even slightly below-average control. He could be a number three, even number two starter in the major leagues. But realistically, that may never happen.

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At JetBlue Park at Fenway South on Saturday night, there were some annoying factors. Firstly, there was no radar gun, which put my pitch recognition skills to the test in addition to the obvious factor of preventing us for measuring Colome’s velocity (no, I’m not professional enough of a scout to bring a radar gun- yet). Secondly, in the middle of the game, the rain picked up and I had to move back under the overhang from my seats right by the Rays dugout (although I could certainly have done worse than the seats right behind home plate where I ended up). That being said, here were my scouting observations on Colome from Saturday night.

Colome is essentially a right-handed version of Torres who trades some pure stuff for halfway-decent control. On Saturday night, Colome went 2 innings, allowing 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 1. I saw a fastball, changeup, and spike curveball from Colome during his outing on Saturday night. His fastball (which usually ranges from 92-94 MPH) features little sink but excellent late run that makes it a swing and miss pitch when he can locate it. Like for Torres, I really liked Colome’s changeup, which starts out looking like his fastball before featuring late movement down and away from handed batters. His curveball, meanwhile, featured sharp 11-to-5 break but he had a lot of trouble selling it as a strike. Colome was mostly around the zone with his pitches, but he struggled quite a bit at times. Colome walked 4.1 batters per 9 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2011, not exactly a ghastly mark, but your BB/9 will be lower when you’re able to get swings and misses. Colome doesn’t feature as much deception as Torres, but he still has trouble staying calm in his delivery and overthrows, messing up his control. When his control and command are solid, Colome is able to locate and get a lot of swings and misses on his fastball and use it to set up his change and curve to make them very effective pitches as well. And although he’ll never be a control artist, his mechanical issues are more simple than those of Torres and he should be able to continue putting up decent walk rates as he moves up through the minors. Colome has number three starter upside and he’s a safer bet than Torres to reach his ceiling. He’ll spend 2012 at Double-A and he should be in the big leagues in September.

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