2020 Preseason Dirty Thirty-Five: Prospect #8


PROSPECT PREFACE

I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.

I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).

There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.

Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. Those write-ups are the shells for these posts. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each and I've done some MAJOR editing within each write-up, as well.


Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please tell me what you think!


Outfielder Jhon Torres

Age 20

Johnson City and Peoria

Acquired From Cleveland In The Oscar Mercado Trade



I love Torres's picture above. He looks like he's straight clownin'.


As I start to put together the next wave of my top three favorite prospects in the organization (the prospects that will replace Andrew Knizner, Randy Arozarena, and Ryan Helsley as my personal favorites), I start that list with Jhon Torres. Although, to be fair, it's kinda cheating because Torres is already a prized prospect. When I first claimed those other three they were still on the fringes of prospect status.


The first gif in this post is a couple of years old, but I love it:

Acquired from the Indians as part of the trade that sent Oscar Mercado to Cleveland, Torres just seems to have something special. He struggled a bit with an advanced promotion out of extended spring training with Peoria, but he looked more than comfortable, and impressive, with Johnson City during the 2019 season. As we talked about in his midseason Dirty Thirty-Five write-up, he was starting to figure it out a bit at Peoria before he was demoted to Johnson City. I was able to watch a lot of his last few games at Peoria, and he didn't seem nearly as overmatched as the numbers might indicate by the time that he was moved to Johnson City.


Then again, it might just be that Torres is an impressive specimen for a recently-turned 20-year-old. He's 6'4" and about 200 pounds, and his frame appears to be proportionately filled out. He's strong and lean, and I love that, but he still has a frame that would do well to add more muscle if he's up to the challenge.

I've said it before, but I think that Torres is going to be a top 200 prospect in baseball by the end of the year. I think that he and Ivan Herrera are the two most likely position players to make waves nationally as prospects within the Cardinals system, aside from Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson. That's not to ignore the already existing amount of hype brewing between Torres and Herrera. Instead, it's to state that they're the two most likely to go from being prospects to being "PROSPECTS" like Dylan Carlson did in 2019. Or, more conservatively and appropriately, like Elehuris Montero did in 2018.


Torres has a flashing-above-average arm in right field, and that's the position that he is best suited for as of this moment. He has good speed, but he isn't a burner. He gets a good jump in the outfield and on the basepaths, and that obviously helps him a great deal in playing quicker than he might appear. Torres is a good athlete, and he has very good baseball instincts. He runs kinda weird with his hands swings in a weird way, and I love that. Not quite as weird as Malcom Nuñez and his choppy little goofy steps, but weird nonetheless.

Where Torres will make his money is with his bat. I love his swing, and I've been extra encouraged

with the steps that he's taken to minimize an exaggerated leg-kick that gives him power but costs him timing on breaking pitches from right-handers. I love that he hasn't cut it out entirely and that he's adjusted it to maximizing his timing, even though there is still work to do. His bat is quick enough to make up for the timing issues that might arise with his current leg kick, but there is a good chance that further adjustments are going to need to be made as he climbs the ladder. Truth be told, I really like his mechanics even with the big leg kick. I believe that it's just a matter of his sustained success coming with an improved batter's eye.


As of right now, he seems like the kind of player that is capable of making both short term and long term adjustments at the plate. The 27.1% K rate in the Appy League is definitely worrisome and might be contrary to this notion, but I feel so good about the adjustments that I witnessed him make by the end of his time in Peoria (even with the 38.7% K rate there) that I'm sticking to my belief that he's a quick-adjuster. We'll get more into his time in Peoria in a minute.

One thing that I love about Torres, and that bodes well for his long term power output, is that he gets excellent lower body leverage in his swing. When you couple that leverage with fast hands and a swing that does a tremendous job of staying in the zone, you end up with a hitter that appears to have staying power. Take a look at the gif above. He just misses a home run because he hit it to the weirdest part of the park. He clearly got underneath this pitch, and he still came "this" close to doing real damage with it. That's the kind of raw power that is inside of this young man. I also love to see the aggressive swing and approach in the 2-1 count.


With the teenagers, I feel like I need to express extra caution. Hitting a baseball is very very difficult, and free-swingers like Torres sometimes take a minute to figure it all out. At Peoria, there was a templet to getting him to chase for a strikeout, and the gif below will demonstrate how. If you can get ahead of him with a couple of fastballs on the lower, outer half then he can be pretty easy to polish off with a breaking pitch in the lower-half of zone. He's usually hunting for something middle-in early in counts, and this makes him vulnerable. He's going to have to get a better feel for how to do damage when he isn't getting the pitch that he wants early in counts.

Now, I know I'm doing a lot of gushing, so let's bring this back to Earth. First, Torres really struggled during a small taste of the Midwest League. As I stated above, he started to put it together before he was sent to Johnson City (not right away, but after a quick trip to extended spring training), but it was still a rough run that came with a K rate of 38.7% in 75 plate appearances. Even for a 19-year-old, you'd like for a prized prospect to do better than that (and, again, he started to put it together before he was sent away). I'm hopeful that Torres starts 2020 back in the Midwest League. I'm going to bet that he'll show quite a bit better this time around.


Torres also struggled with what is believed to be a bit of a hammy issue during the 2019 season. That issued seemed to have a bit of a negative impact on his stats. He injured it while trying to beat out an infield single, and I take comfort in knowing that he was going all out on the bases to get a hit. His hammy is healthy now, and all you can do is hope that there aren't any flare-ups.


The other main issue that I've touched on too briefly so far is that, even though he was productive and powerful in the Appy League to the tune of a wRC+ of 149, he still struck out 27.1% of the time. I love the 14.3% walk rate, and the fact that he put the ball in the air a ton, but his desire to crush the ball hurts him. Often times, Torres is more aggressive than he needs to be. When he is in this mode, he is at his worst. It won't matter what pitch he is being thrown, he's going to chase it. To be clear, I'm not talking about being aggressive in hitter's counts. As I stated earlier, he's at his most dangerous when he's in those situations. Rather, you'll see him hack at an 0-1 breaking pitch like he's sure it's going to be a fastball. This approach makes him vulnerable with two strikes, as well. He's going to have to clean that up.


None of this is uncommon of a teenage hitting prospect, and his continued growth in the pursuit of plate discipline and the understanding of how he's being attacked is paramount to his continued success. Even with the struggles, I love the Appy League slash line of 286/391/527 with six home runs and nine doubles in 133 plate appearances. For a 19-year-old (for the entire 2019 season) in the Appy League, even with the strikeout percentage, that's a standout season.



THE DEAL


While there are big time strikeout concerns with Torres moving forward (due in large part to his leg kick and his pitch recognition), there are few concerns about the other facets of his game. He's an athlete that has good instincts and can run, all while driving the ball with some of the best second-tier, teenage outfield prospects in baseball.


A good right-fielder with the speed and arm to match the position, Torres won't disappoint in the field. He's good on the bases, but he won't steal a bunch of bases. Where this young man is going to make his money is in his ability to drive the ball all over the place. His swing is tailored for damage, but he's going to need to continue to progress his understanding of how he is being attacked to do the damage that he is capable of doing as he climbs the ladder.

I am obviously bullish on Torres, and I can't wait to see if he proves me right. Hopefully, it'll be at Peoria to start the season.




The biggest of shout outs should be given to @Cardinalsgifs, FanGraphs, Twitter, and MiLB. TV for all of the work that they do that eventually gets put into these articles.

Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. I am so lucky that he asked me to be a part of this all of those years ago.


Thanks For Reading!!

Kyle Reis