The transaction and the thought process behind it are both rather simple. The Tampa Bay Rays received right-handed starter Matt Torra from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations. With Durham Bulls’ swingman Chris Bootcheck exercising his 7/1 opt-out clause, the Rays needed a warm body to fill his rotation spot at the Triple-A level. Enter Matt Torra…
Torra, 27, was selected out of UMass in the first round (supplemental pick) of the 2005 draft by Arizona. Unfortunately, soon after he began he pro-career he shredded his shoulder and underwent surgery for a torn labrum. At the time he was drafted, Torra threw in the mid-90s routinely hitting 95. He accompanied that with a hammer curveball. With a wide 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame, he had the look and stuff of a power pitcher.
Upon his return from injury, Torra still had the look, but no longer the power in his right arm. Now sitting in the upper-80s with the ability to touch 90-91, he transformed in to a finesse pitcher. Command and control were things he had coming out of the draft, but now the ball was coming out of his hand a few ticks slower.
In his first full season after surgery (2007), Torra posted a 6.01 ERA in A-ball. The result was ugly, but alas the Process was decent. Torra struck out a few batters, gave up some home runs, however, he did not allow many walks. As a contact pitcher, he likely suffered from having an A-ball level of defense behind him.
Recently, Torra has been an innings-eater in the upper levels of the D’Backs system – a role he’ll likely fill for the Rays as well. In the past two-plus seasons (including 2011), he has thrown over 400 innings which is a good sign of health. Again, the results have been mixed, but Torra is what he is at this point; a low-strikeout, low-walk guy who will give up a few homers and rely on the defense behind him to rack up innings.
After researching his past, I reached out to a few people regarding what Torra looks like in present day. Most agree he lives in that 87-91 area with a curveball and a decent enough changeup. He won’t get many swings and misses, but is stingy with the free pass. I spoke to Chris Gabel of the Reno Gazette-Journal who covered Torra at the Triple-A level. He echoed the scouting report of the others, but having seen him pitch much more, he noted that the majority of home runs allowed by Torra were a byproduct of the Pacific Coast League and they would not be home runs on the East Coast.
At age 27, and without pure stuff anymore, Torra is a fringe prospect at best headed toward organizational filler. He certainly will not be a long-term starter at the next level for Tampa Bay, but he has swingman/middle relief capabilities. For now, he’ll replace Bootcheck in the Bulls’ rotation, but does so with limited upside – although you could argue Bootcheck had much less potential considering he is 32 years-old. While he may represent an upgrade over his predecessor in both youth and ability, the odds of Torra making an impact at the major league level are slim. On the other hand, the chances of him coming back from a devastating injury and reaching a point where he could have a viable pro-career were not so great either.
We wish him the best of luck.