Seattle Mariners catcher Luis Torrens has put in a great deal of effort into improving his defensive skills. But we shouldn’t overlook Torrens’ bat when assessing his future with the Mariners. There are indicators suggesting he could eventually deliver more production to Seattle’s lineup than he has up to this point of his young career.
Torrens arrived in the Emerald City last August with Ty France, Andres Muñoz, and minor leaguer Taylor Trammell via a trade sending Austin Nola, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla to San Diego. At the time, most attention was focused on Trammell (top-100 prospect), France (possible third baseman of future), and Muñoz (potential closer). Not the likely backup to Tom Murphy in 2021 and eventually the organization’s top catching prospect, Cal Raleigh.
So why my interest in Torrens, a projected reserve? An intriguing average exit velocity with San Diego and Seattle in 2020. How many Mariners fans realize the Venezuela native’s 92.3-MPH exit velocity was highest on the team last season ahead of Evan White (91.1)? But there’s more.
It turns out Torrens’ 57.1-percent hard hit rate with the Padres and Mariners last year was fourth highest among MLB hitters with 50-plus batted balls. Check out the impressive names surrounding Seattle’s newest catcher on the following list. For anyone not familiar with Ke’Bryan Hayes, he’s an early favorite for 2021 NL Rookie of the Year after an impressive 24-game debut with the Pirates last season.
Highest Hard Hit Rate (50 Batted Ball Min)
Fernando Tatís Jr. – 62.2% (SDP)
Travis d’Arnaud – 57.8% (ATL)
Miguel Sanó – 57.3% (MIN)
Luis Torrens – 57.1% (SEA)
Ronald Acuña Jr. – 57% (ATL)
Corey Seager – 55.9% (LAD)
Eloy Jiménez – 55.7% (CWS)
Christian Yelich – 55.6% (MIL)
Ke’Bryan Hayes – 55.4% (PIT)
Mike Trout – 55.1% (LAA)
Yes, Torrens’ 78 plate appearances last year equate to a small sample size and should keep our expectations in check. On the other hand, conventional and advanced stats from his 2019 campaign with Class-AA Amarillo hint at an ability to deliver value with his bat.
The following illustrates the right-handed hitter’s numbers with the Sod Poodles (!!) two years ago. Also on display, how each stat compared to 225 AA players with 300-plus plate appearances.
|* vs 225 AA Hitters With 300+ PA's|
Torrens’s strikeout and walk rates ranked in the top 25-percent in 2019. Moreover, his slash-line was particularly robust with only two players in the entire Padres farm system recording a higher wRC+. MLB Pipeline’s number-45 prospect Luis Campusano (148) and Torren’s current teammate, France (196). It’s worth noting France led all minor leaguers in wRC+; Julio Rodríguez (164) led the Mariners’ system.
Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) quantities how a hitter’s total offensive value compares with the league average after adjusting for park effects. Every point above 100 represents a percentage point above average. League-average is always 100.
As I wrote recently, approaching MiLB statistics with caution is advisable. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from them. For example, consider the transformation in Nola’s production numbers after joining the Mariners organization.
We now know Nola enjoyed a breakthrough in 2019 when he made changes to his approach suggested by the Mariners. The result was a reduction in groundballs and improved power numbers. His success first materialized with Class-AAA Tacoma and then followed him to the majors as a rookie and in 2020. Could Seattle help Torrens in a similar manner?
Obviously, every player is unique in so many ways. Still, Torrens would certainly benefit from putting more well struck balls in the air rather than driving them into the ground. Here’s what the groundball rates of both Torrens and Nola looked like in the years leading up to the 2019-20 season.
Imagine if Torrens could reduce his groundball rate, as Nola did, and continued to have a high hard hit rate. Maybe he won’t ever be top-10, as was the case in 2020. But an above-average hard hit rate coupled with a lower groundball rate could unleash a potentially potent bat.
Perhaps my notion Torrens could thrive offensively is simply the byproduct of excessive staring at Statcast data until seeing something I wanted to see. If that’s the case, he still projects to be a solid backup to Murphy and/or Raleigh.
On the other hand, what if Torrens were able supercharge his bat with a change in swing mechanics? Perhaps then, he could elevate himself to being a serious contender for Seattle’s starting catcher job.
Sound unrealistic? Maybe, but consider this. How many Mariners fans were aware of a catcher named Austin Nola at the beginning of the 2019 season?
My Oh My….
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