Franklin Torres Continues Adding Versatility
Under general manager Billy Eppler and new manager Brad Ausmus, the Angels consider defensive versatility a strength. So much so, in fact, that they are taking a more proactive approach to identifying and developing potential utility players in the minor leagues.
That has led to a major position switch for 22-year-old Venezuelan prospect Franklin Torres, an infielder whose willingness to strap on the catcher’s gear this season could clear a quicker path to the big leagues.
“He’s still young and there are things we like about the bat,” Angels field coordinator Chad Tracy said. “He has a nice, clean path, and we think he has a chance to impact the ball. From an OPS standpoint, the catching position is the lowest. If you can find guys who can do that and hit, it’s definitely to your benefit.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Torres, who signed in 2013, came up with the Angels as a third baseman but has started more games at second. He’s also made 35 starts at first base and 21 at shortstop.
The Angels, thinking Torres had the hands, arm strength, agility and instincts to catch, moved him behind the plate in spring training. Under the tutelage of catching coordinator Eddy Rodriguez, Torres adapted so well that he is now catching two or three times a week at high Class A Inland Empire.
“The first thing we looked at is receiving,” said Tracy, who is a former catcher. “If you can’t receive and it looks choppy, you’re not gonna do it. We put the gear on him, fed him some balls, and he received the ball beautifully for a guy who’s never been back there. It progressed from there.”
Offensively, Torres hit a combined .269 with a .719 OPS over his first five seasons. He hit .248 with a .687 OPS, zero home runs and nine RBIs in his first 36 games this season, but the Angels believe he has the potential to do much more.
“Nothing statistically jumps out at you yet, but he has a strong frame, big hands, and he’s shown some power to the opposite-field gap, which is unique for me,” Tracy said. “If this kid can continue to refine himself at the position and turn [his defense] into a tool, we might have a decent catcher on our hands who has the ability to hit a bit.”
— Patrick Sandoval’s strong start at Double-A Mobile, where he had a 3.60 ERA with 32 strikeouts and seven walks in his first 20 innings, earned the lefthander a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake in early May.
— Infielder Leonardo Rivas, who did not homer more than five times in any of his first four seasons, has shown improved power at Inland Empire. He is hitting .246/.333/.435 with four home runs and 15 RBIs through his first 34 games this season.