Signing Jose Miguel Torres out of Venezuela in July of 2007 was a bold move for the Miami Marlins. Even though the Torres experiment never panned out, signing him was easily justified. Torres was arguably the most talented shortstop from that year's international free agent class. However, ever since the Marlins signed Torres in 2007, they have not shown the same commitment to signing the top international teenagers. Miami needs to forget about Torres and return to rebuilding their team, starting with chasing a few of the top young international prospects.
Jose Miguel Torres was born in October of 1990, the same year that players like Starlin Castro and Brett Lawrie were born. Miguel Torres was raised in the same town of Maracay, Venezuela that has produced Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera. Coincidentally, Torres was probably the most talented 16 year-old the Marlins had signed since they signed Miguel Cabrera in the 20th century. However, the comparisons to Cabrera end there.
The players that most frequently sign at a young age out of Latin America are usually shortstops. Torres was a switch-hitting shortstop with fantastic defense that looked like it could only get better. Even if his bat never reached its potential, Torres appeared sure to become a great defensive shortstop. Albert Gonzalez, the Marlins director of international operations, even went so far as to say that Torres would become like Alex Gonzalez, except with more doubles and a higher batting average. Those expectations are insane for a teenager who had never even been to the United States.
Miami signed Torres for a $250,000 bonus and sent him to their Dominican training facility. From 2008-2010, Torres quietly slipped off of the radar of most fans. In those three years, he played in Rookie ball, Jamestown, and Greensboro, never hitting above .255 and with zero combined home runs and triples each of those three seasons. Torres was never expected to have much power, but he turned out to be nothing more than a slap hitter, and not a very good one. In 2011, Torres played in 83 games at High-A Jupiter. He hit .221/.253/.265 with only 11 extra-base hits in 277 at-bats.
Before the 2012 season, Torres's career came to a sad and disappointing end. Torres was suspended 50 games for testing positive for dehydroepiandrosterone, a performance-enhancing substance. Consequently, Torres was released by the Marlins, which probably marks the end of his minor league career. For a player who was signed with such high hopes, it was a rough way for his professional baseball career in the United States to end.
When it comes to 16 year-old international prospects, you never know what you are going to get. Occasionally, the teenager turns into a player like Miguel Cabrera, or a starter at the major league level. However, most of the time, these players never make it to Double-A. That was the case with Torres, despite all the hype he received at 16. However, the Marlins spending a quarter of a million dollars on Torres was justifiable because if they had not paid him, another team would have and also because Miami was proving that they were willing to take risks in international free agency. Unfortunately, Miami's front office these last couple years has strayed away from Latin America and that is the main reason why Miami has such a huge lack of internationally-born teenage prospects.