Round Rock Express’ newest star is making waves a long way from home

Revue de presse

By Kevin Lyttle, Statesman, 20 août 2019

Abraham Toro

ROUND ROCK — The next big thing for the Round Rock Express isn’t physically intimidating like Yordan Alvarez. He’s not from a Sunbelt baseball hotbed like Florida’s Kyle Tucker, and he didn’t play for a major college program like Oklahoma’s Jack Mayfield.

The Express’ newest buzz-worthy addition speaks three languages, waited until he was 14 to dive into the sport and comes from a place where “Hockey Night in Canada” is much more popular than “ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.”

Meet third baseman Abraham Toro, a 22-year-old French Canadian from the Quebec town of Longueuil (pronounced Lon-gay) across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal.

“Everybody plays hockey, or talks hockey,” said Toro, a 2016 draft choice rapidly climbing the prospect charts. “I just never got into it. I played a bunch of sports like soccer and volleyball. But I went to a high school that had a baseball program, and that was the game for me.”

Toro has come a long way in a hurry. He’s already rated the sixth-best player in the Houston farm system, according to MLB.com, and is enjoying a breakout season.

Photo ci-dessus : Abraham Toro

“He’s a polished, pure hitter,” said Express Manager Mickey Storey, whose team is steamrolling down the stretch with the top record in the Pacific Coast League. “I love his plate discipline. He looks comfortable and secure in the box. When he’s up there, you just feel something’s about to happen.”

Namely a line-drive base hit. Promoted to Round Rock from Corpus Christi on Aug. 1, Toro is raking with a .411 average, 23 for 56 in his first 13 games. He’s had games of 2, 5, 3, 2, 3, 3, 2 and 2 hits over his last 10.

“I knew fans here would like him,” said outfielder Chas McCormick, a teammate of Toro’s coming up through the system. “Abraham is a lot like Josh Rojas, who we traded at the deadline. They’re both smaller guys and switch hitters, can move around the field and consistently barrel up the ball. Toro is a doubles machine.”

Toro, listed at 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, stroked 35 doubles in 2018 and has 29 this year. He’s already matched his power numbers from all of last year — 16 home runs and 78 RBIs — though he doesn’t have a Triple-A homer yet.

“I’m not too concerned about that,” he said. “I’ve shown power the last two years, now I want to be a more complete hitter, not an all-or-nothing guy.”

Toro is proud of taking the road less traveled to get here. Baseball wasn’t foreign to him. His parents moved from Venezuela to Canada the year before he was born. Vladimir Guerrero and the Montreal Expos were still around, and he was a fan.

Yet it wasn’t easy developing in an area where spring snowfalls made for a short season.

“We wouldn’t start outdoors until May,” he said. “We had an indoor facility, but there was only one cage and it’s not the same taking ground balls in a gym than on grass. You learn to adapt and maybe work a little harder.”

From suburban Montreal he ended up off the beaten track at Seminole State community college in Oklahoma on the advice of one of his coaches who played there. Toro tore it up, hitting .439 with 20 homers and 86 RBIs in 55 games. The Astros noticed and nabbed him in the fifth round in ’16.

Toro batted just .246 and .247 his first two pro seasons before overhauling his mechanics and his mental approach before the Arizona Fall League in ’18.

“I changed my load to lower my stance, shorten my leg kick and simplify my swing,” he explained. “It’s helped me a lot to see the ball better.

“I used to be a dead-pull hitter from the left side. Now I hit to all fields. I also learned not to be afraid to hit with two strikes. Wait for a good pitch or take a walk. Sure, I want to drive the ball, hit the home run, but I’d rather just make solid contact. I think all those things account for the jump in average.”

Toro, who said he patterns fellow switch-hitters Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez of Cleveland, has a respectable 55 walks to 82 strikeouts this year and has fanned only five times in 56 Express at bats.

“He knows the zone and makes good swing decisions,” Storey said. “It’s why I’m good with putting him in the two hole. His game will translate to the big leagues.”

Teammates like Tucker, a leading candidate for PCL MVP, are impressed.

“He moved up a level and hasn’t missed a beat. Seems like he’s always on base,” Tucker said. “It’s another example of this organization continuing to produce. Guys are traded, and others step up.”

Revue de presse publiée par Jacques Lanciault.

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