By Alan Simpson
(National ranking in parentheses)
1. MATT TORRA, rhp (National rank: 23)
Hometown: Pittsfield, Mass.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: June 29, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Never.
Scouting Report: Torra is the top talent in New England and could be a prime target for the Red Sox, who have six picks before the start of the second round. But their first doesn’t come until 23rd overall, and Torra was rising so fast this spring that he may not be around. He should move quickly through the pro ranks as well, and possibly even to Double-A by the end of the summer, because he’s one of the most complete pitchers in the draft. Despite pitching on a weak UMass club, everything came together for him this spring. He dedicated himself to getting in better shape and has become a pitching prototype. Big and strong at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Torra gets his fastball up to 92-94 mph, touches 95 and holds the velocity deep into games. He repeats his delivery and has command of two plus pitches: his fastball and a 12-to-6 curve that has been clocked at 83. His changeup needs work but projects as big league average. Torra has learned how to control the pace of a game much better this year and didn’t give up a home run in 95 innings, while posting a Division I-best 1.14 ERA—a sharp drop from a 4.90 ERA in 2004. He gave up only 56 hits altogether and walked 16 while holding opponents to a .172 average. Despite those numbers, he was just 6-3 as he was the lone bright spot on a team that went 16-33 overall. He pitched several games with pitch counts of more than 140 or 150 pitches—a workload that raised a few eyebrows among scouts.
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Massachusetts)
Colleges Provide Solid Seniors
Six-foot-5, 230-pound LHP Mike Wlodarczyk (2) was drafted in the 15th round by the Expos last summer, and made an astute decision to return for his senior year. He was moved from midweek starter to become Boston College’s ace, and went 10-2, 2.96 with 83 strikeouts in 79 innings. Wlodarczyk developed a lot of confidence last summer in the Cape Cod League, going 4-0, 2.08 for Hyannis. He tightened up his release point and has developed command of four pitches, including a 91-92 mph fastball and a vastly improved curveball.
Like Wlodarczyk, senior RHP Joe Martinez (3) benefited significantly pitching last summer on the Cape for Hyannis. After going just 3-5, 7.23 combined as a sophomore and junior for the Eagles, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Martinez went 8-3, 2.63 as a senior, showing some of the potential that prompted the Pirates to draft him out of a New Jersey high school in 2001. He throws three pitches for strikes, including an 88-91 mph fastball, and keeps hitters off balance with a true 78 mph curve—his strikeout pitch. He fanned 97 in 89 innings this year. Scouts say he should be even better as a pro as his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame is undeveloped.
While his 2-6, 4.21 record may not reflect it, RHP Devin Monds (5) also showed improvement this year, though he remains inconsistent. The 6-foot-5, 240-pund senior impressed scouts with three solid pitches, including an 88-91 mph fastball and knuckle-curve, when he worked 10 no-hit innings in a game this spring, only to get a no-decision. But his wildness resurfaced in other outings, a byproduct of an unorthodox delivery. Monds, a resident of Ottawa, has an interesting pedigree. His dad Wonderful played in the Canadian Football League. His brother, Wonderful III, played professional baseball while his stepbrother Mario plays for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. Monds was not affected by this spring's visa situation because he is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.
Monds’ Northeastern teammate Chris Emmanuele (8), on the other hand, is a Canadian. He led Northeastern in batting (.340), home runs (11), RBIs (40) and stolen bases (17) this spring and showed he can do it all on the field. He’s an above-average runner but scouts say he needs work at getting better jumps on the bases and in center field.
Six-foot-7, 220-pound RHP Nathan Freiman (7) was the state’s top high school prospect at the outset of the year, but scouts backed off him as his fastball was only 87-90 mph and a below-average curveball showed little improvement. He didn’t pitch well enough for most teams to consider buying him away from a college commitment to Duke. As Freiman’s stock waned, scouts took more interest in LHP Scott Barnes (4), who mowed down hitters with a 91 mph fastball while average more than two strikeouts an inning.