Image credit: Abrahama Toro (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s not unusual to have multiple players with Venezuelan heritage on a major league or minor league roster considering the South American country’s very rich baseball traditions.
But a player from a Venezuelan family who was born and raised in the French-Canadian province of Quebec, smack dab in the middle of hockey country? Now that’s unique.
That’s the case with Abraham Toro, an Astros farmhand playing this fall with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. Toro’s family had emigrated from Venezuela, settling outside of Montreal just one year before his birth in the Quebec town of Longueuil.
Despite his Venezuelan bloodlines, Toro, now 21, did not take baseball seriously until he was 14, spending more time on the soccer field and the volleyball court during his youth. Even then, his time on the baseball field was limited because of the wintry weather in Quebec.
“In the winter you can’t go outside because it’s snowing,” Toro said. “It’s not the same taking groundballs in the gym instead of taking them outside on the real field. … We had an (indoor) facility but we only had one cage inside and a gym to take groundballs. It’s not the same, but at the end of the day you get your work in. That’s the important part.”
Toro has been making up for lost development time since then, having reached Double-A just two years after the Astros drafted the switch-hitting infielder in the fifth round after his lone season at Seminole State (Okla.) JC. And he’s certainly impressed scouts covering the Arizona Fall League, most notably in the way he consistently barrels up baseballs when at the plate. At the midpoint of the six-week AFL season, Toro had posted a slash line of .353/.450/.529.
The improvement he’s showing is consistent with the goals Toro set coming into the AFL season.
“Try to spread the ball to all fields with power,” Toro said in response to what he’s trying to accomplish this fall. “From the left side, I’m more of a pull hitter, and I’m just trying to spread the ball everywhere.”
That goal fits with what the Astros are looking for from Toro, but they also want him to get a feel for how he measures up against other top-notch competition, especially considering his age.
“It’s important for him to come out here and see how he stacks up against some of the best players in the world,” said Troy Snitker, one of the Scorpions’ hitting instructors and a coach with the Astros’ Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi. “It’s more of a challenge and more of an opportunity to build on what he’s done the last two years and see how he stacks up.”
A natural righthanded hitter, Toro has only been switch-hitting since he was 16. But he has hit consistently well from both sides of the plate during the bulk of his three-year pro career, and he notes that he hits with more power from the left side but makes better contact righthanded.
Defensively, Toro has spent most of his time at third base, the position he played at Seminole State, although the Astros gave him some reps behind the plate in 2017. For now, his future is at the hot corner and the Astros have no immediate plans to make him a multi-positional player, although Toro is fine with moving around the field to increase his versatility.
“His bat, more so than his versatility, is what gets him to the big leagues,” Snitker said. “At this point, we’re looking more for his bat and his potential to do damage in the lineup and then the versatility and his athleticism is a plus on top of that.”
Toro grew up speaking both Spanish and French as a child before later picking up English. While he doesn’t have many opportunities to use his French language skills in baseball, his fluency in his other two languages make him a valuable resource to any team of which he’s a member.
“I’m trying to help the guys that don’t speak English, so they can communicate with the coaches and with the players,” Toro said. “I know it’s hard, like when I learned English it was a hard a little bit. I know how they feel, so I’m trying to help them.”
Snitker has already seen the leadership role that Toro takes, which goes along with his outstanding makeup, work ethic and desire to make himself better. The ability to communicate with his teammates makes Toro even more of an asset to his team.
“Toro’s the kind of guy and the kind of teammate that he’s going to get along with whomever regardless of what language he speaks,” Snitker said. “It’s super beneficial not only with him interacting with his teammates but for him during the game, as well to be able to communicate with anybody in the dugout. I know we take advantage of that.”
Toro’s quest for knowledge to improve his baseball skills is getting an extra boost in the Arizona Fall League, with teammates from four other organizations sharing information and techniques with him. He’s already picked up some tips on how to approach hitting off machines in the batting cage and learning that he doesn’t always have to swing as hard as he can, but instead choke up and just try to barrel the baseball. It’s all things that he’ll be able to take into next season.
“I felt great, my BP (was) better,” Toro said. “It’s something that I think I’m going to stick with for a long time.”
That continual desire to get better is just another example of what has made Toro one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s Arizona Fall League.
The annual Fall Stars Game, featuring the AFL’s brightest prospects, will be held on Saturday, November 3rd beginning at 5:08 pm at Surprise Stadium. The game will be televised live on the MLB Network.