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Name: Matt Torra
Draft: 31st overall, 2005
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Weight: 225 lbs
History: Matt Torra was the first pitcher claimed in the 2005 draft's supplemental round. Five appearances into his professional career, however, he tore the labrum of his throwing shoulder, which sidelined him for the next year. Many pitchers do not even return from such an injury, but Torra put together seven outstanding, albeit truncated, starts for South Bend upon his return.
"The Diamondbacks had a lot of great people behind me," Torra told FutureBacks. "They kept pushing me and they stuck by me even when I had some tough times through it. So you've just got to be confident that it's going to work out."
Torra's miraculous results at the end of the 2006 season would not translate into success at the beginning of 2007. Torra went 1-4 with an 11.57 ERA and .396 BAA in April. By the end of May, he was 1-6 with a 9.87 ERA. Although Torra's shoulder felt pretty healthy, it's important to remember that he had only pitched 35 professional innings before facing some advanced hitters in a tough league for pitchers.
"Getting through that first half, as bad as it was, was really beneficial for me," confirmed Torra.
The first-rounder rebounded with a 10-3 second half, posting a 4.05 ERA and 91 strikeouts to just 19 walks. From August on, he went 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA.
Torra's second half improvement culminated in an eight-inning, eight-strikeout playoff appearance that swept the favored Modesto Nuts from the playoffs. He allowed five hits and a walk, with only one of his four runs allowed being earned.
"All the talk in the league was that Modesto had the best 1-2 punch with [Brandon Hynick and Alan Johnson]," Torra recalled. "You know, I really wanted to beat Hynick, and Ambriz pitched great in the first game. I just wanted to roll with that, and [the offense] really picked me up big with the homer by Cyle Hankerd in the eighth inning."
Hynick was named the fourth best prospect in the Colorodo Rockies organization in the 2008 Scout.com Baseball Prospects Guide. Hankerd and Torra ranked 6th and 18th, respectively.
|Minor League Totals||12||12||5.26||40||37||193.2||221||125||113||16||52||167||1.41|
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Makeup: John Hester, one of three backstops that caught Torra in Visalia, explained that Torra's improvement last season didn't come through sharper stuff as much as an altered pitching philosophy.
"He was trying to throw a lot of fastballs at the beginning of the year," Hester began. "He realized that he needs to mix in his change and his curveball, in even counts or when he's behind in the count to keep hitters honest. A lot of times hitters cheat, always anticipating the fastball and getting it. Once he almost pitched backwards at times, he kept hitters off balance. He obviously did better and finished strong the second half of the year."
Torra has shown not only a resiliency in coming back from a difficult injury, but the ability to make adjustments within a season. His mental makeup combines with his plus stuff to justify his early draft selection and thrust him into top prospect status.
Pitches: Four-seam Fastball, Two-seam Fastball, Curveball, and Changeup
Prior to the labrum surgery, Torra was primarily a power pitcher, dominating batters with a mid-90s fastball and power curve. He explained how his repertoire has changed since the injury.
"My velocity's been down a couple of miles (per hour), but I'm pretty confident that it'll come back this year," Torra assured us. "My curveball's the same thing with my velocity; now that my shoulder's a lot stronger, I feel it's going to really come back to where it was before."
Torra has also developed a sinker that has become a standard tool for every Diamondbacks pitching prospect since Brandon Webb had his breakout season in 2005. He threw a changeup before the injury, but he had to rely on it more with his primary offerings not as sharp as usual.
"My changeup has really improved dramatically from before the surgery," he said. "I really learned to pitch with it very well."
Major League Clone: Ben Sheets
Prediction: Torra is poised to have a breakout season with the Mobile BayBears. A simple continuation of his late 2007 performance would be great, but in moving from a hitter's league to a pitcher's league with better all-around stuff, Torra could be flat-out dominant.
"I feel that I'm a lot more prepared this year," Torra told us when comparing this spring to one year ago. "My shoulder does feel a lot better. I have a lot more rotation, I feel stronger, and my mechanics are better than last spring training, so my expectations are pretty high."
ETA: There's no reason for the organization to rush Torra with the major league rotation as stacked as it is, but if he has the kind of season that everyone is envisioning, it's reasonable to expect Torra to make a few spot starts in 2009 and seize a full time rotation spot in 2010.
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