Mets 8th-round pick Torres dominates D-II ball

Lefty goes 11-0 with 4 shutouts, posts 0.70 ERA for Tusculum College

June 11th, 2016
Placido Torres attended North Brunswick Township High School in New Jersey. (Tusculum College)

NEW YORK -- The offers began trickling in for Placido Torres after his junior season. Playing for tiny Tusculum College, a school of about 1,500 students in rural Tennessee, Torres did enough to earn looks as an undrafted free agent. His coach, Doug Jones, told him to follow his heart. But if Torres stayed, Jones said, he could still improve. He could become a leader.

"I was like, 'I got you, coach,'" said Torres, a New Jersey native whom the Mets selected Friday afternoon in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. "So that's what I did. I went out there and competed my butt off. I thank God that I put up the numbers that I did."

They were the type of numbers that no one at Tusculum had ever before approached, let alone exceeded. Torres' 162 strikeouts in 116 innings were by far the most of any pitcher at any collegiate level this season. The left-hander's 0.70 ERA ranked first in Division II and fourth in the NCAA. Torres went 11-0 in 14 starts, throwing seven complete games and four shutouts.

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The trouble with such dominance is that it makes evaluating a player's future potential tricky. But Mets scouts were enamored enough with Torres' repertoire -- he throws four pitches, including a low-90s fastball, slow curve and slider -- to take a chance.

"It's never easy [to scout] in baseball, or any sport, when a player is just totally dominant in competition," scouting director Tommy Tanous said. "He might be a little too good for that competition. I think what you have to do is rely on what stuff is coming out in the case of a pitcher. And Placido certainly warrants it. He throws 88-92 [mph]. He's got a plus breaking ball. So I think it's fair to say his stuff would play anywhere. Would his statistics be as high? Probably not. But this is a guy that, across the board, you feel really good about how he matches up against the other players in your system."

When Torres received the call from the Mets, he was watching the Draft with his sister in New Jersey. He first told his mother, who began crying. He later called his father, who checked to make sure Torres was not joking before also shedding tears.

Though Torres laughs when he recalls growing up a Rockies fan in New Jersey, enjoying watching Todd Helton and Ubaldo Jimenez in particular, the Mets are one of his hometown teams. Torres attended North Brunswick Township High School, before moving on to ASA College in New York City and, finally, Tusculum.

It was there that Torres developed into one of the most dominant pitchers in Division II history.

"The one thing is when you see him, the stature's not going to stand out to you and you won't think, 'Wow, look at this specimen,'" Jones said. "Because he's not. But he's probably the biggest competitor, one of the biggest competitors I've ever coached in my life. And that's the other thing that kind of sets him apart."