Jose Torres was a slick-fielding shortstop at Calvert Hall High in Maryland. Professional scouts considered Torres as the top prep prospect from the state in 2019.
The Milwaukee Brewers selected Torres in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB draft. But Torres attend North Carolina State instead. He weighed just 156 pounds as a senior in high school and felt he wasn’t ready physically or mentally to start a pro career, he said.
Now two years after being a top high school prospect, Torres is once again garnering draft interest. The draft-eligible sophomore played well in a pandemic-shortened freshman season to position himself as one of the top draft prospects this year. Scouts project him as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
“I have just grown up and am more mature compared to when I went through the draft process in high school,” Torres said. “Otherwise, it is the same process to me.”
During his freshman season, Torres hit .333 with three doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs in 60 at-bats. He lacked plate discipline at times, however, recording 20 strikeouts compared to three walks.
But Torres isn’t known for his offensive ability. He always has been regarded as a defensive-first player. He has above-average arm strength, athleticism and the instincts to play shortstop in pro ball.
“My defense is my biggest strength right now,” Torres said. “I have always excelled at defense. I work at it every day and take great pride in it.”
In the offseason, Torres refined his skills at the plate. He believes he was trying to do too much at times last season, resulting in him striking out 31% of the time.
Torres hopes his experience playing 17 games last season and a better mindset at the plate can result in him having more consistency offensively this season.
“At the plate is the most important area I want to improve,” Torres said. “I want to have a better approach. I want to find different ways I can help the team, whether that’s bunting the ball or taking more pitchers or increasing my average compared to last year’s. Overall, I just want to learn how to be a better player at the plate.”
Last season, North Carolina State was off to a tremendous start. The Wolfpack posted a 14-3 before the NCAA canceled the season.
The Wolfpack return a bulk of last year’s team, minus catcher Patrick Bailey and left-handed pitcher Nick Swiney, who were first and second-round picks, respectively.
Torres believes the Wolfpack can qualify for the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time since 2013 this season.
“We feel like we have some unfinished business,” Torres said. “Last year, we felt like it was the year for us to get to Omaha and potentially win the national title. This year, we feel like we have gotten a lot better and players who have improved. We have a great team going into this year.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.