The Next Andres Torres?

To celebrate the return of minor league stats to the site, let’s spend a few minutes looking at a guy who is having one of the most interesting seasons in AAA, and has put himself on the map as a guy who has earned another shot in the big leagues – Luis Rodriguez.

You may remember Rodriguez from his time with the Twins and Padres, where he served as the quintessential utility infielder for the last five years. He fit the cliche perfectly – little guy, played multiple positions, put the bat on the ball, no power. He was exactly what you thought of when the terms “backup shortstop” came to mind. After a miserable season at the plate with the Padres last year, where he hit .209/.319/.260, San Diego released him. He hooked on with the Indians over the winter, but was released at the end of spring training. He took a minor league deal with the White Sox and has spent this season with Triple-A Charlotte.

And what a season it has been.

In 354 plate appearances, Rodriguez is hitting .296/.360/.502. That is not a typo – the diminutive middle infielder is outslugging Jesus Montero. A guy who has slapped the ball on the ground for most of his career, he’s already launched 15 home runs in the International League, and 31 of his 90 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s done this while maintaining his excellent bat control, as he again has more walks (34) than strikeouts (30).

His Isolated Slugging (.202) is double what it was previously in his minor league career, and his next home run will give him twice as many longballs as he’s ever had in a single season before.

There’s a pretty good chance that this is a career year. Rodriguez is 30, and it is Triple-A baseball. Stuff like this happens sometimes, and most guys can’t carry it over to the big leagues. However, there’s a contemporary example of this exact same development path currently having a monster year in the majors – Andres Torres.

Like Rodriguez, Torres was a no-power slap hitter who had never really done much offensively in the majors or minors. In 2007, at age 28 and back in Double-A, he started driving the baseball, and carried that over to Triple-A when the Tigers promoted him. It didn’t earn him a big league shot, though, so he signed with the Cubs in 2008 and went back to Triple-A to prove himself. He slugged .501, continuing the power outburst, and the San Francisco Giants took a shot on him as a reserve outfielder for the 2009 season.

Good thing, too – he’s hit .285/.366/.512 in 602 plate appearances over the last two years, and he’s currently one of the few players in baseball having a +5 WAR season in 2010. Torres is the biggest reason that the Giants are still in playoff contention, as his mid-career power surge in the minors turned him into a pretty good player.

Don’t bet on Rodriguez putting up a +5 win season in the big leagues next year. Torres is the exception, not the rule. However, given the success that the Giants have had with their surprisingly strong small outfielder (he’s listed at 5’10, 190, the same size as Rodriguez), expect some Major League team to give Rodriguez another shot in the big leagues.

If by chance the power surge is even somewhat sustainable, Rodriguez could be a nice player for a lot of teams. Switch-hitting infielders who can make contact and drive the ball are not very easy to find. The White Sox may have lucked into one. If they aren’t going to give him a shot, someone else will.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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D.J.F
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D.J.F
5 years 11 months ago

lame/unfunny #6org jab

kwmozez
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kwmozez
5 years 11 months ago

package him with danks for jose lopez. get it done kenny.

Brandon
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Brandon
5 years 11 months ago

Luis Gonzalez also made a huge jump between his age 29 and 30 seasons, nearly doubling his ISO. Scarily, he nearly doubled it AGAIN for his big age 33 season.

West
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West
5 years 11 months ago

But he wasn’t on steroids…..

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
5 years 11 months ago

Thats hardly an accurate account of Gonzalez’s ISO.

His ISO from age 27-35: .178, .172, .118, .208, .213, .233, .363, .208, .228

His age 29 season was his lowest career ISO, and his age 33 season wasn’t that out of the trend of his early career. His age 33 was a lot higher than any other year (50%, not 100% as you said, though), but it immediately went back down to the low .200’s.

Brandon
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Brandon
5 years 11 months ago

I said nearly doubled: .118 to .208 is a 76% increase, .208 to .363 is a 75% increase. Perhaps “nearly” was a bit generous, but certainly not out and out erroneous. By bad for not looking further back, though, that I agree with — I just vaguely remembered him as a slap hitter who blew up suddenly.

Chair
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Chair
5 years 11 months ago

Can we please have a series on veteran AAA players with Torres like potential?

As a fan of a Dodger team that is financially strapped and has a big whole at 3rd base, it would be great to know what the best of the minor leagues has to offer. A list of guys like the Dodger’s John Lindsey would be awesome.

Chair
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Chair
5 years 11 months ago

Seriously it would be awesome. We all know about prospects, give us more dark horse major leaguers

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
5 years 11 months ago

Actually there is likely not going to be a next Torres, just like there was no ‘next’ Cliff Lee.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 11 months ago

Here’s what we’re learning …

If you’re gonna be a “slappy” ground ball speedster type hitter … you better be Vince Coleman or Ichiro to make it work. Most guys aren’t Vince or Ichiro fast.

The undersized fast guys often are taught to “walk” or “hit a grounder”. Since they don’t have power and are a threat to steal, pitchers refuse to walk them, so they’re forced to do it all with speed, which isn’t likely to be successful.

As you climb baseball through the higher levels, the defenses get better … and your chances of racking up infield hits and blooper singles go way down.

These guys usually have good bat control, so the idea of getting them to use hip rotation to drive the ball harder (as oppossed to spap as you’re focused on getting out of the box quickly) and/or further isn’t that far fetched … especially if they have moved into their “mature body” at 27 (and not a 20yo string-bean).

What Andres Torres did was “learn how to it” by talking to a guy that has exmained tons of hitters and noted what they actually do at the plate. Then he went out and practiced it over and over, until it became his “swing” … and he has had a lot of success.

Combine some increase power with their speed, and their likely great defense, and there might be a whole host of guys with the potential to make a splash in WAR.

Calling Torres a “fluke” or treating it as if something that won’t happen again, is to not understand HOW it happened and WHY (IMO).

wobatus
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wobatus
5 years 11 months ago

There’s no mention of it being a fluke, just that it’s the exception, not the rule. How often it happens, not how it happens. Perhaps it’ll happen more often if more guys get the right swing doctor and have the aptitude.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 11 months ago

Actually there is likely not going to be a next Torres, just like there was no ‘next’ Cliff Lee.

My comment is in response to this.

There will be another “Torres”, just like there will be another Ryan Ludwick or Garrett Jones, and there may be another “Cliff Lee” (guy that goes to the minors and returns as a really good pitcher).

In baseball, there is hardly ever “one of anything”. I wouldn’t even say there’ll never be another Rick Ankiel.

To me, it is a sad commentary on coaching in professional baseball, when guys like Ben Zobrist and Andres Torres have to go to an individual instructor outside of their organization in order to get hitting instruction.

nmh
Member
nmh
5 years 11 months ago

Realistically, Cliff Lee was the next Roy Halladay. Both had great campaigns early in their career, but had to return to the minors to make adjustments. In fact, I believe that Halladay went all the way back to Hi-A before returning as a potential/likely HOF’er.

The ebb and flow of this game dictates that their are very few truly “unique” situations, which is a testament to how cyclical this game can be. Of course there will be another Andres Torres, there was a Travis Hafner, Jack Cust.

If I were to make a bet, I think I’d go with Daniel Nava as a potentially valuable (3.5+ WAR player) that essentially came from nowhere, but predicting these types of turnarounds is a good practice in futility.

rick11p
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rick11p
5 years 11 months ago

“His ISO from age 27-35: .178, .172, .118, .208, .213, .233, .363, .208, .228”

Thta’s like Seame Street–One of these things is not like the others. Andres “learned how to do it” alright. So did Marlon Byrd and half of the Jays

AB
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5 years 11 months ago

Was wondering when someone would toss Byrd’s name in there.

joser
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joser
5 years 3 months ago

Well, for one night at least he sure was a nice player for the Mariners.

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