Welcome to, and say good-bye to, the Who Is series, which brought attention to prospects that do not get as much attention as others in the organization.
So who is Cristian Toribio?
Signing Adrian Rondon was not the Rays' first big splash in the international signing period. That came in 2012, when they went over their spending limit by signing pitchers Jose Mujica and Jose Castillo as well as catcher David Rodriguez to big bonuses. None of those players has really distinguished themselves as of yet, but an infielder signed that period for just $65,000 that has.
Obviously, that infielder is the subject of this post, Toribio. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 with an unremarkable .284/.346/.375 line. His .721 OPS was 54 points above the league average, though, and he complemented that offense with above-average defense up the middle.
That season got him on the prospect radar at Baseball America, and he followed that up with a nice U.S. debut in the Gulf Coast League. While Toribio's OPS dipped to .693 (.266/.354/.338), that was still well above the league average of .661. Despite the pedestrian season, BA again acknowledged him as a GCL sleeper ($), noting his all-around package of tools and a switch-hitting experiment that is apparently over.
2014 would be Toribio's breakout season in the Appalachian League. He batted .275/.339/.485, and that .824 OPS was good for 15th in the league. Only three of the players in front of him were also under 20 years old, and only three of the players in front of him were also middle infielders. His 22 extra-base hits were among the league leaders.
Despite that quality season from an up-the-middle position, Toribio did not receive much attention from the prospect watchers. He is not in Baseball America's top 30. He is not on the Minor League Ball top 20 with plenty of leftovers listed. He is not on the MLB.com top 30. As far as I can tell, he has never even been mentioned on Baseball Prospectus. He was not nominated for our community top-30 list, and none of our writers placed one vote for him, not even me.
This is not an indictment of the work of these sources. After all, I think everyone agrees it is a deep organization, and a good hitter in short-season league is not particularly uncommon. Toribio is certainly under the radar to this point, but he may not be for long.
Toribio did make the cut for one prominent top 30: FanGraphs. At No. 28, Kiley McDaniel shares an interesting comp: Juan Uribe. The Rays list Toribio at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, while McDaniel has him checking in at 190. Even at the heavier weight, he is still more than a hop and a skip away from Uribe's 245.
Uribe has had an up-and-down career, but in the end, he was a long-time serviceable contributor. No one is going to confuse him with an All-Star, but most players are not.
If Toribio is Uribe, hopefully he does not take until his 30th birthday to settle in as a consistent player at the plate. In his 20s, Uribe owned an 80 OPS+. Since he signed with the Giants in 2009, he has been a 99 OPS+ player despite a pair of horrendous seasons with the Dodgers in the mix.
Even in the seasons Uribe was not hitting, and there were plenty of them, he was playing very good defense. He was never rewarded with a Gold Glove for his efforts, but whether it was at shortstop or eventually third base, his glove was a positive for his team.
From reading scouting reports, it does not seem like Toribio will be that kind of defender at shortstop, but he should be capable of handling himself there. His arm should be good enough to play third base if needed.
At the plate, Toribio offers average power potential and an average bat. He has an aggressive approach but not quite to the point of being detrimental, strikeout rate with Bowling Green in 2015 notwithstanding. He was a pretty effective base stealer until 2014.
Toribio is described as a leader that brings energy to the diamond,other attributes also commonly associated with Uribe.