The rise of UCSB pitcher Zach Torra, whose reconstructed fastball seemed to mirror his trajectory as a player, was named to the Collegiate Baseball Division 1 All-America Third Team on Wednesday.
“He sure pitched like an All-American,” Gaucho coach Andrew Checketts said. “I know he only got four starts, but they were All-American starts.”
Torra, a junior lefthander from Santa Ynez, posted a win-loss record of 3-0 with an earned run average of 0.36 during UCSB’s coronavirus-shortened season. He struck out 39 batters in 25 1/3 innings, with opponents batting just .133 against him.
“He got a lot of swing and misses,” Checketts said.
Torra, who went 30-5 with a 0.47 ERA during his four years at Santa Ynez High, transferred to UCSB from Cuesta College after going 5-5 with a 2.57 ERA for the Cougars.
“When he came here, our analytics team was able to see his stuff on the analytics machine, and we got a feel for how he maybe should pitch a little differently,” Checketts said. “We could see his vertical-rise ability — making the ball appear to move up — which puts him in kind of an elite category.”
The biggest change was in how he threw his fastball — from a sinking two-seamer to a rising four-seamer.
“We talked to him about throwing his fastball up in the zone, and missing up,” Checketts said. “Throwing a two-seamer to get the ball on the ground is good, but he had this special talent to make the ball move up.
“He also came in with one breaking ball and now he throws another: a curveball that profiles well with that fastball, and a slider that he can get lefthanders out a little bit more.”
He said Torra had “just an OK fall” but then “really put it together when he got back from winter break.”
Torra, a 6-foot-1 and 195-pounder, also returned “bigger and stronger” in January, Checketts added.
“He had an uptick in his velocity and was able to maintain it even late in games when he could smell the win,” he said.
Torra is eligible to be selected in Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft on June 10-11. The draft, however, has been reduced from 40 rounds to just five because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think Torra is our only player who could possibly slide into the first five rounds,” Checketts said, “but there are so many unknowns that I just don’t know how Major League Baseball is going to play it.”
He said there’s no financial incentive for Torra to sign as a free agent since Major League Baseball is allowing contracts of no more than $20,000 for undrafted players. There will also be no minor league baseball this summer, he added.
Checketts said Torra would still have leverage next year since the NCAA has granted juniors two more seasons of eligibility because of this year’s shortened season.
“He might get discounted a bit next year because he’ll be older, but the discount won’t be 10 cents on the dollar like it is for normal seniors,” he said. “I know he’d do better than $20,000.”