Before Wil Myers and Chris Archer in 2013, you have to go back to 1995 (Garret Anderson and Troy Percival) to find the last time two teammates received first-place votes in the Rookie of the Year voting. To find a case where teammates received first-place votes and one of them actually won the award, you have to go back to Alan Davis and Mark Langston for the Seattle Mariners back in 1984. What the Rays have in Wil Myers and Chris Archer is something special, and we did not need a Rookie of the Year voting to tell us that. Myers is primed to utilize his prolific power to become a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Rays for years to come, and Archer’s electric fastball adn sharp slider give him a chance to be the next young frontline starter that has risen through the Rays’ ranks. But looking at the Rookie of the Year voting, it is easy to forget about another promising player that did not receive any votes: Alex Torres.
Torres may not have been recognized for his 2013 season, but that takes nothing away from how good his numbers were. He went 4-2 with a 1.71 ERA, striking out 62 (9.6 K/9) while walking just 20 (3.2 BB/9) in 58 innings pitched. He allowed just 1 home run, and while that may have been a product of luck, he did an excellent job keeping the ball on the ground, forcing a 59.1% groundball rate. Torres was initially a long reliever when he came up in May and then again in June, but he was so effective that Joe Maddon could not help from putting him in a higher-leverage role before long. Torres did experiences some struggles as he came into bigger spots, but from his first real pressure-packed appearance on June 22nd and onwards, Torres remained outstanding, putting up a 2.50 ERA in 30 appearances.
So many fireballing relievers come up to the major leagues and put up impressive results. Torres certainly pitched extremely well, but the way he got there was not quite typical. Torres has great stuff, but instead of his fastball coming in at 95-96 MPH, he threw it primarily from 92-94 MPH. Torres was not heading to the hill expecting to blow everyone away. Instead, he relied on his fastball command and movement to along with his killer secondary pitch, his changeup. Torres’ fastball-changeup combination was analogous to the pitcher he was setting up, Fernando Rodney, but that is where the comparison ends. Torres had an occasional bout with the wildness that had been an issue through most of his minor league career, but on the whole he did an excellent job locating his fastball down in the zone for strikes. What was scary was that even as Torres was staying in the zone, his fastball’s late life made it very difficult to hit with any authority. His fastball was often enough by itself, but when it was not, his changeup often did the trick, imitating his fastball’s movement out of his hand before the 8 MPH speed difference made hitters look foolish. Torres stayed primarily with those two pitches, but he showed potential with his slider as well, and as the league begins to adjust to them, that is another weapon he could resort to more often. Torres stood out for not just having an outstanding arsenal but having the aptitude to command his offerings and mix them effectively. Instead of changing his approach entirely when moving from starting to relieving, Torres kept his starting mind-set in a reliever, and that made him even more dominant.
It has been years and years since the Rays have had a homegrown closer, but it could be Torres that changes that. Jake McGee has the fastball but no secondary pitches. Torres may be a few MPH behind McGee in terms of velocity, but he more than makes up for it with the effectiveness of his changeup and the way he ties his repertoire with command and control. The Rays are unlikely to give Torres the closer role right away, but if he continues pitching effectively, it is only a matter of time. No, Alex Torres is not quite at that level of Myers and Archer. A superstar right fielder and a strong number two starter are more valuable than even the best closer. However, as Myers and Archer lead the Rays to the postseason and beyond in the coming years, Torres will be right there with them making an impact in the late innings.