Carlos Torres struck out two batters and allowed one hit in his inning of work last Wednesday in the Triple-A all-star game. It was a fitting stage for the 26-year-old righthander, who seems to have put all the pieces together this season with Charlotte.
A 15th-round pick as a college senior by the White Sox back in 2004, Torres has gone 8-4 for the Knights while compiling an International League-leading 2.20 ERA. Only Lehigh Valley’s Carlos Carrasco (Phillies) has racked up more strikeouts than Torres, who has 96. And while Torres has walked 38 batters in 98 innings (3.5 per nine), he has balanced that by being stingy with hits (72) and home runs (three).
"He’s really had a great year," Torres’ manager Chris Chambliss said. "His fastball, cutter and curveball have all been real effective, and his control has been outstanding."
Though he didn’t throw his first Triple-A pitch until he was 25 years old, Torres didn’t lag behind because of a lack of stuff or because of a predisposition toward injury. Despite having a good arm, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound righthander had shuttled back and forth between starting and relieving in his five pro seasons prior to this one. He spent all of ’07 in the bullpen, for example, mostly at Double-A.
But that’s nothing new for Torres. He’s been taking an indirect route to Chicago ever since his freshman year at Hancock (Calif.) JC. From there, he transferred to three schools in three years, heading to Grossmont (Calif.) JC to San Jose State and finally to Kansas State, from where the White Sox tabbed him.
Torres’ fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 94, and as Chambliss indicated, his cutter and curveball have served him very well against righthanded batters, who have hit a mere .198/.291/.272 against him this season. Torres has done a better job keeping lefthanded batters in check this season, though improvement to his changeup could mean the difference between a relief role and a rotation spot in the big leagues.
"When he has tough games, it’s because he walks a couple guys," Chambliss said. "But for the most part he’s been throwing strikes, and he’s been great."
We Like Ike
Because they liked his above-average power and pitch recognition skills, the Mets selected Arizona State first baseman Ike Davis with the 18th overall selection in the 2008 draft and bestowed him with a $1.575 million bonus. But Davis sure had a strange way of repaying New York’s faith.
Davis, a 6-foot-5 lefthanded batter who was leading ASU batters in all triple crown categories before missing time with a ribcage injury as a junior, didn’t homer in his first 75 pro games. In fact, he didn’t do much of anything with his first 312 plate appearances, batting a composite .260/.330/.338 in his first three months of pro ball. To make matters worse, he spent that time with short-season Brooklyn (’08) and high Class A St. Lucie (’09)—two age- and experience-appropriate levels.
Things have been different, though, since the 22-year-old Davis connected for his first pro home run on April 28. In nearly the same number of plate appearances (296) since, he’s batted .291/.389/.520 with 12 home runs and 18 doubles in 70 games, all while turning in a fine 40-to-62 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Davis earned a promotion on June 23 to Double-A Binghamton, where he’s kept up the pace.
"He’ll have power. I like him quite a bit," a pro scout for an AL club said back in May, when Davis appeared more bust than boom. "He’s the type of player who will hit a ton of doubles and play good defense. He’s just a really good player who understands the game and does everything correctly."
Mets vice president of player development Tony Bernazard can’t hide his enthusiasm for Davis’ development, saying, "He’s coming along well for a player in his first full year. He’s a great defender and we believe he’ll hit for power. You can see it in how he’s hit a lot of doubles. And the best part is, he’s kept up while playing in every game."
So now that we’re a year removed from the 2008 draft, let’s take stock of how the five first-round college first basemen have fared in their first full seasons. (We’ll exclude the Cardinals’ Brett Wallace, Davis’ teammate at ASU who went 13th overall, from consideration because even though he may wind up at first one day, he’s played third base since signing.)
|’08 FIRST-ROUND COLLEGE FIRST BASEMEN|
|17||Blue Jays||David Cooper*||AA||341||.257||.337||.360||4||37||58|
Seven Up, Seven Down
It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s time to present the top seven and bottom seven full-season minor league clubs through games of Monday, July 20. The caret (^) indicates a team that did not appear in our last ranking.
|TOP 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|4||Brevard County||54||32||.628||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||W2||6-4|
Dropped Out: None.
|BOTTOM 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
Dropped Out: Dayton, .404.
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