No one has ever questioned Alex Torres‘ stuff. The lefty Torres features a low-90′s fastball that touches 95 MPH with overbearing movement, a changeup that looks like his fastball with great late sink, and a breaking ball that has flashed devastating break that makes hitters look silly as the swing and miss it by a foot. But Torres has always been just so inconsistent and you never knew what you were going to get with him. Torres features a very deceptive arm slot from the left side that gives hitters an awfully hard time picking the ball up out of his hand. But the problem with his delivery is that the way he throws across his body renders him unable to find a consistent arm slot. He’ll throw three straight fastballs and each one will move completely differently. That isn’t always such a bad thing- you can be effectively wild- but Torres can suddenly completely lose any idea of where his pitches are going and walk three straight batters in a flash. Torres has his moments where hitters don’t have a chance. Then suddenly, it looks like he couldn’t locate a pitch in the strike zone of his life depended on it and you want to just give up on him. Everyone was guilty of that this season, thinking Torres was done as a prospect as he posted a 7.30 ERA as he walked nearly a batter per inning. And now everyone is back on the Alex Torres bandwagon and wondering why they ever left.
It started for Torres during a stint all the way down in the Gulf Coast League where Torres worked with Rays minor league pitching coordinator Marty DeMerritt. Then in his last start of the season back at Triple-A Durham, Torres struck out 10 while walking just 1 in 5.2 innings. And now as Torres pitches for the Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuela, hitters have no idea what has hit them. Torres has made 4 starts spanning 18 innings for Zulia and allowed just 3 earned runs on 9 hits, striking out an unbelievable 33, a ridiculous rate of 16.5 per 9 innings, while walking just 5. His groundout to airout ratio has also been an outstanding 5.67 and hitters have batted just .148 against him. What is happening? Torres has finally nailed down his arm slot and gotten ahold of his fastball to locate it for strikes. And with his fastball consistently hitting the zone, not only has Torres been able to blow his fastball by hitters, but it has also set up his slider and changeup to force swing-and-miss after swing-and-miss. The movement on Torres’ pitches remains dynamic, and now that he can locate them for strikes, everything has come together for him. Will this just be another stretch of greatness for Torres before everything falls apart again? Well, Torres is not quite this good, but all signs are pointing to the conclusion that Torres has made some significant improvement as a pitcher that will help him enormously moving forward.
How good can Alex Torres be? He’ll turn 25 in December and even after this breakthrough, his control and command problems prevent him from being a number one starter even in the best-case scenario. However, if Torres can keep his current progress going and continue developing as a pitcher, he has a real chance to become a number two or number three starter in the major leagues. In the span of a couple of months, Alex Torres’ career has done a complete 180°- he has gone from hopeless prospect to a pitcher the Rays have high aspirations for moving forward. After all the inconsistency he has displayed over the years, you can’t take anything for granted with Torres, but suddenly a future as good as anyone would have ever thought has come within reach.