Abraham Toro Makes You Believe by Lucas Kelly August 11, 2021 There are a number of players who have seen a change in playing time post-trade deadline. Abraham Toro moved into a near everyday role upon Alex Bregman’s injury and was consistently hitting towards the bottom of the order. But, since being traded to Seattle, Toro has found himself hitting in the 5 spot, keeping his everyday role intact, only at second base rather than third. It is likely that Toro would have found himself back on the bench, or worse, as Bregman nears a return from injury. Since moving to Seattle, Toro still does not have the most crystal clear path towards an everyday role, but it’s getting clearer. The Mariners Depth Chart shows a lot of interchangeable pieces and it’s not clear whether or not Toro will continue to fill the 2B spot if his bat begins to go quiet. Regardless, Toro has made an impact with his new club, has begun appearing on many analysts’ waiver wire feeds, and has hit from the leadoff spot in his two most recent appearances. Let’s take a dive down the rabbit hole and see what Toro’s game is all about. The 24 year old, Canadian born, Toro was drafted by the Astros in 2016 and has yet to record a full season. With 89 plate appearances in 2019 and 97 in 202o, Toro has had more than a cup of coffee but hasn’t yet found that everyday groove that allows a player to get consistent reps. He has, however, played at every level minor league baseball has to offer. All of that seasoning had to have been a selling point for Houston and big part of trade negotiations. It helped that Toro seemed to catch fire right as those negotiations were heating up. From July 25th to July 28th, Toro hit a home run each day, hitting four in total. That was two for Houston and two for Seattle. Beyond a quick and short surge of power, it is his high BABIP that has stood out the most in recent weeks. In the month of August, Toro has the 18th highest BABIP among hitters with at least 30 plate appearances during that time. What’s more impressive is that among the top 20 BABIP performers in that time period, Toro’s 11.4% walk rate ranks third, behind Franmil Reyes at second (14.3%) and Jesse Winker at first (22.9%!). Toro is getting on base when putting the ball in play and taking his walks. While Toro has never been a stolen base threat, his 75th percentile sprint speed, according to statcast, is likely a big factor in his above-average BABIP. Here’s a comparison of Toro’s spray chart with that of Tim Anderson, who is in the 77th sprint speed percentile and fourth among qualified hitters in BABIP at the time of this writing: It doesn’t seem that Toro will suddenly start using his speed to steal bases with his new team either. The Mariners currently rank right in the middle at 15th in stolen bases in 2021 and ZIPs ROS projections have Toro swiping only 2 more bags. Yet, speed may just keep Toro’s BABIP above average when matched with his current 84.8% contact rate (league average is 75.8%). While Toro’s walk rate has increased, his O-Swing% has dropped significantly, reaching a 2021 15-game rolling peak of 43.9% at the end of July to a current low of 30.3%. In my mind, this tells a great story. In 2020, Toro was bouncing all around the lineup with the Astros, hitting from the DH spot, playing third, first, and pinch-hitting off the bench. It would make sense that he started pressing, trying to prove himself a mainstay in the batting order. In 2021, a similar thing may have happened up until he was traded. Maybe he pressed, maybe he heard the footsteps of rehabbing Alex Bregman, and maybe he was trying to prove that he could still be useful upon Bregman’s return. Then, traded to Seattle, perhaps he realized he had a more secure role and became more patient. I realize I’m applying a pretty specific narrative to a small amount of data, but intuitively it makes sense and he’s shown this kind of discipline in the past. He’s no Juan Soto, who currently has the league’s lowest O-Swing% at 15.8, but he is working his way to better than average. That’s really the point with Toro, all of the things I’ve seen point towards getting better. For a young player who was just given a new opportunity, that’s important. In order to really make you think I’ve put together this crazy looking line chart to drive the point home some more: While it is noisy, it can be used to notice a few things. First, Toro’s BABIP is crazy high. Like, too high. So don’t expect that to continue. However, at the same time, his line drive rate (red) has increased and his ground ball rate (light-blue) has decreased. These are great metrics to compare with his increased statcast metrics: Abraham Toro’s Statcast Metrics Pitches Barrel % Max EV xwOBA Hard Hit % 2020 369 3.1 107.9 0.288 28.1 2021 683 7.8 109 0.325 32.6 2021 League Average – 8 – – 38.6 SOURCE: Baseball Savant To sum it all up, he’s hitting the ball harder and in a way that makes it more likely to fall for a hit. If it ends up too close to a defender, he can use his speed to beat out a throw or two. While Toro is just below average in barrel rate and hard hit rate, he has shown peaks above his current averages in the past. Here’s one more rolling chart: Remember the yellow line from the second rolling chart above? His fly-ball rate has increased, but so has his HR/FB rate. We can see that those four homers he put out before and after being traded are not flukes and the underlying metrics could soon start to come together to make that happen even more often. Finally, let’s look at how he’s handled major league pitching. Baseball Savant shows Toro’s wOBA on breaking pitches going from .238 in 2019 to .312 in 2020 and .393 in 2021. This year, his wOBA on fastballs sits at .339. League average wOBA on all pitch types is currently .314. If you go to the ‘Run Values by Pitch Type’ section of his Savant page, you’ll see that all of the individual pitch types he’s seen in 2021 have resulted in a positive (or 0) Run-Value except for the sinker, a pitch he has struggled with each year he’s played in the big leagues. Finally, and this is more interesting than anything else, in 2020 he whiffed at 35.7% of curveballs but slugged .429 on the pitch. This year, 2021, he has whiffed at 16.1% and has slugged .813 on the pitch. Here he is crushing a curveball in his new uniform: It’s too hard to say whether Toro’s recent +20.8 roster % in ESPN leagues will go up or down. If you’re fighting for a first-place spot right now, Toro could frustrate you with peaks and valleys. However, I think he’s worth a roster spot even in shallow leagues. I’ve relied heavily on xwOBA all year to make drop/add, sit/start decisions and Toro hasn’t made his way up to a spot that he should be replacing anyone just yet. But, after what Toro has done in a short amount of time and with more pitches seen, I don’t think I want him hanging out on the wire for someone else to grab.