2013 Colorado Rockies Player Reviews: Yorvit Torrealba

Dustin Bradford

Ramon Hernandez was signed before the 2012 season to serve as a two-year mentor to Wilin Rosario as he transitioned to replace Hernandez as the starting catcher by the end of 2013... a plan that never ended up even close to happening as intended. Hernandez was cut out of Spring Training in favor of a fan favorite in Yorvit Torrealba, one of the most notable faces from the Rockies' two most successful seasons in recent memory. Was it the right decision?

In the four years that Torrealba spent away from the Rockies organization, he played for four different organizations and slowly began to move from a starter type into more of a traditional mid-30s backup catcher. 2012 saw Torrealba skip from the Rangers to the Blue Jays, and at last again to the Brewers, signaling his placement on the very edge of the ability to retain his MLB credentials.

It was clear from 2012 that Ramon Hernandez, who spent most of the season injured or ineffective, was not the player we'd hoped we had signed. Unable to serve reliably as a starter while Wilin Rosario broke into the MLB swing, Rosario had to accept the chance to prove he could be a starting catcher earlier than expected. Thankfully, Rosario's offensive tools followed him to the majors, and despite his defensive woes he looked sharp enough to project as the team's next long-term starting backstop, leaving Ramon Hernandez primed to back him up in 2013.

The team was obviously concerned about Hernandez' status, and the team chose to bring Torrealba into the fold. After his weak 2012 season, Torrealba was able to be netted on a minor league deal, an idea I had suggested as SB Nation's blogs prepared for their mock winter meetings. It didn't end up happening in the sim, but real life came through. Torrealba went into Spring Training with a legitimate chance of deposing Hernandez, the only issue being whether or not the Rockies would be willing to punt Hernandez' contract. Somewhat more unexpectedly, when Torrealba had clearly earned the 2013 backup job, the Rockies managed to trade Hernandez to the Dodgers, netting them Aaron Harang, who eventually became Steven Hensley upon being flipped to the Mariners. Thus ended the brief, unsuccessful era of Ramon Hernandez.

So now let's take a look at Torrealba's season. Early on, Torrealba was much like Todd Helton in terms of overall production; not doing anything especially productive, but also not proving to be overly detrimental to the team's winning success. Early in the season, he was frequently credited (overly so, in my opinion) for maintaining a positive offensive performance. By the second half of the year, Torrealba's WPA bubble had broken and he was sent careening into the negative values, where he finished third worst on the team. fWAR didn't loathe Torrealba as much this season, giving him credit for being at least equal to a replacement level player. bWAR wasn't so courteous, netting him a half a win less.

Overall offensively, Torrealba struggled. His most notable positive improvement was a significant drop in strikeouts compared to career rates, but his walk rate also dropped. Meanwhile, his power numbers fell off the face of the Earth, which when coupled with the previous information indicates that Torrealba spent most of the season making weak contact at the plate. For the first time in his career, he went an entire season (in which he played more than three games) without a single home run. While he has never been too significant a power threat, his .379 career slugging dropped almost 100 points, leaving him with an extremely ugly .045 ISO, the third lowest in the major leagues among players with as many PAs as Torrealba.

Torrealba doubled eight times this year, his only contributions greater than singles. His final line was an ugly .240/.295/.285/.580.

Those who appreciate intangibles may be able to find better value in his season than the more statistics oriented. Rosario improved his sophomore year in pretty much all aspects, at least some of which can probably be credited to Yorvit. He was also given a lot of credit for the resurgence of Jorge De La Rosa, with whom Torrealba worked very closely this season.

So was this the right move? Would Ramon Hernandez be better? Honestly, it's hard to say. Hernandez looked much worse at the plate than Torrealba did in his time with the Dodgers, but he managed to be more productive than Torrealba regardless during that time. Unfortunately for Ramon, the Dodgers cut him early in the season, so a true year/year comparison isn't in the cards. It seems likely that had Hernandez remained healthy through a hypothetical 2013 with the Rockies, he could have contributed more to the offense despite worse discipline.

2013 Grade: C-/D+

I prefer the D+ grade personally, but I think a C- is a fringe legitimate answer depending on how much Rosario and De La Rosa owe 2013 success to him. This may have turned out less embarrassing than some fear when they see former popular Rockies players re-signed for seemingly little value other than nostalgia for better times, but ultimately Yorvit produced nothing tangible of value during 2013.

2014

Torrealba is one of four players (plus Rafael Betancourt's declined option) leaving to the free agent market this offseason after the World Series. Last week, I mentioned that Jordan Pacheco seems the most likely internal candidate to take over for Torrealba, and also mentioned that I really didn't want Jordan Pacheco handed that job next year.

That same statement applies to Torrealba. When I say I want competition for Pacheco next Spring, I want that competition to be a tier above Torrealba as well. Thankfully, the backup catcher market is always full of the same usual suspects every offseason. It shouldn't be difficult to come up with at least 2-3 other names to throw into this mix, which will hopefully be just one part on a more complete operation to improve the supporting cast on the bench.

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