Patrick Teale

Saul Torres, as physically gifted as they come, is learning the mental side of professional baseball.

TAMPA, FL -- Saul Torres, arguably the organization's top International free agent last year, was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees at just 16-years-old and batted .154 in 19 games in the Dominican Summer League last season. Now in Extended Spring Training with his first spring camp behind him, the young catcher is starting to become better acclimated with professional baseball.

Just a few weeks into his second season with the Yankees, 18-year-old Saul Torres stands at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds with room to get bigger and stronger. He didn’t have a stellar 2016 in the Dominican Republic, but he gained valuable experience at the professional level for a player at such a young age.

Torres said that playing with the Yankees has helped him grow and mature mentally as a baseball player, in addition to his development on the field.

“One of the main things I learned was controlling my anxiety during the games,” Torres said through the help of a translator. “Kind of slowing the game down in every area... my defense, my hitting. It was about controlling myself and my emotions more than anything mechanically.

“Now I have rules and I have to prepare mentally for the games. I’m learning to do the little things and learning how to think before you act on the field.

With a little time and experience under his belt, Torres is beginning to let himself focus on his performance on the field while working toward a long-season team.

He spoke about what he’s really tried to work on this spring.

“Mainly my hitting and learning to prepare myself for the whole season. When the season starts I know it’s going to be a long year, so my main thing is getting my body ready to be able to last the entire season, but obviously I’m working on my defense and hitting as well.

“I keep getting better and improving, and making adjustments as the time goes so that I can be the best player I can,” Torres said. “I’ve gotten better offensively and defensively. I think I’ve balanced out my performance, working a bit on both.

Torres said that he hasn’t been told whether or not he’ll land on a long-season squad this year or if he'll even break Extended camp outside of the Yankees minor league complex, but that just being able to play in the United States is huge for him.

“It was a big step for me to come over here and not be in the Dominican Republic at this time of the year,” he admitted.

“The main thing that I’ve seen from him is his unbelievable work ethic,” hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez said, "the desire he has to learn and get better.”

Gonzalez talked about Torres’ improvements at the plate from Spring Training to Extended Spring Training.

“He’s improved his balance and trying to avoid over-swinging, typical stuff among the young kids,” Gonzalez said. “But his ability to get the barrel to the ball is pretty impressive so you just try to keep him focused as we work on his balance. He’s no different than any other young kid, he just needs a little more ability to get the bat on the ball consistently.”

Gonzalez hesitated to make predictions about Torres’ upcoming season, but he talked about his progression since last year and reiterated the importance of Torres working on his mental approach to the game if he wants to continue getting better.

“I expect him to have a solid season, especially just learning. Like he said, he has to just learn about himself and what he needs to do to become a successful hitter and controlling his emotions as the game goes on or if fans are in the stands. Controlling his emotions and his effort level during the game are going to be key for him.

“Mechanically he’s close to where he was last year.  He hasn’t changed a whole lot [in that regard] but he’s now mentally able to detect what he does wrong at the plate,” said Gonzalez. “Self-evaluation is huge for me whenever I see a young hitter. If he can see what he did bad, and he will do things bad whether it’s strike out or have a bad game, it’ll be easier for him to make adjustments.”


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