The Nationals went true to their nature in the First-Year Player Draft and in agreeing to deals afterward with undrafted free agents in their focus on stockpiling or restocking pitchers and catchers.
The Nats drafted four pitchers in the first five rounds, including their first-round pick, right-hander Cade Cavalli, and their fifth-round selection, left-hander Mitchell Parker. Right-hander Cole Henry was taken in the second round, but is really a first-round talent. Right-handed closer Holden Powell was the best at his craft in the Pac-12.
The organization also selected Oklahoma catcher Brady Lindsly, Cavalli’s battery mate with the Sooners, in the fourth round.
And in the undrafted free agent market, the Nats reportedly nabbed another backstop in Ray Torres IV.
Torres, 20, was a teammate of Parker’s at San Jacinto College North in the Houston area. The LSU signee was ranked the top catcher out of New York, according to PerfectGame.org.
San Jacinto coach Tom Arrington said Torres was their main man behind the plate in 2020. And the skill that stood out was his throwing ability and overall arm strength.
“Ray Torres was our primary catcher,” Arrington said. “Ray earned the spot to be our No. 1. He stepped in there. He just has a cannon of an arm. I looked at Ray and I had heard the projections about him, what he could be, previously having committed to LSU, and us being able to pick him up at San Jac. He’s got to refine his skills some, but it wasn’t until I saw him on video. When you see Ray behind the plate on video, you go, ‘Man, what a mature stance he provides.’ He is very strong in his legs.”
On video replays, you can see Torres’ lively right-handed stance and how he can drive the ball from the right side to the gaps. He has a strong frame listed preseason at 5-foot-11 and 187 lbs. The Gators went 21-6 this season, and Torres led the team with a .444 batting average, six doubles, two triples, six walks and 12 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .528 and his slugging percentage .667.
“For us, he had a very good year with the shortened season,” Arrington said. “Because he is very aggressive, I expected him to be more swing and miss, but I didn’t see that as much. I saw that he was really able to (do well). I also looked at him as strictly a pull (hitter), a pull-side power guy, but he didn’t show that. Looking at his (video) clips and seeing what he really produced, his scatter chart was all over the field, which I like. That is what we are trying to project. Can this kid drive to the right-center gap from the right-handed box?
“He was flirting with the idea of switch-hitting. He was primarily right-handed for us. But he did show that he could sit in the box and turn and burn, an aggressive nature with occasional power.”
Of paramount importance to the Nats is a catcher’s leadership skills and overall makeup. It is something Michael Barrett focuses on every day with his backstops, the critical relationship between the pitcher and the catcher. Arrington said Torres does a very good job of guiding and protecting his pitchers in games.
“He’s down there and he communicates in small actions as a catcher with his pitcher,” Arrington said. “I like that kind of stuff. A small cue can go a long way in a pitcher’s understanding of what Ray was trying to convey to them. He’s very instinctive. He is projectable as can be. I think he is going to be an outstanding catcher.”
Arrington said Torres is very aware of what is happening in each outing with his pitcher and is constantly making sure they are on the same page, communicating between innings and making sure the game plan remains on point.
“His personality, his sense of humor, he’s a little dry,” Arrington said. “He’s like, ‘OK, are you with me here?’ Sometimes that’s kind of what you want. You don’t need an overbearing person back there that you want to throw it to. You just want somebody that’s going to be there for you. You want a rock. You want somebody that is stable.”
Arrington liked what he saw from Torres and his arm strength. He said Torres also uses his glove-side strength to help frame pitches.
“He shows great glove hand strength for picking the ball low,” Arrington said. “There is no off-side drag out of his arm trying to frame a hard, right-handed slider or anything like that. It’s a steady, steady hand. Blocking skills are extremely well. I would think his main strength is his arm strength and his release - very, very quick, very powerful.
“One of the best we’ve had. We’ve had many good catchers. He’s obviously one of the best at that. He is stable back there. There is not a lot of movement. He’s very quiet. He shows that he is able to stay in that box and protect an umpire, make them feel comfortable. He delivers more of a package than just catching. He works the whole entire system.”