Toro-Hernandez brings power, versatility to Astros

HOUSTON -- His family moved from Venezuela to Montreal just before he was born in search of a better life. Abraham Toro-Hernandez's next stop might be Houston.

The Astros drafted the unheralded third baseman from Seminole State College in Oklahoma in the fifth round (157th pick overall) of Friday's 2016 Draft. He hit .439 with 20 homers, 86 RBIs and 94 runs scored in 55 games last season for Seminole State and has a cannon for an arm.

Although his college coaches believe he could profile as a catcher down the road, Astros scouting director Mike Elias said that wasn't a huge part of the equation in drafting him.

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"We liked him as a third baseman," he said. "We will explore the catching thing with him if it's something we feel is appropriate. We're mostly excited about his physical tools and the success he's had. He had a great season. Our scouts think he's got a third baseman's arm, he's got power and he's an athletic kid."

A switch-hitter, Toro-Hernandez can throw 92 mph off the pitcher's mound, which is why some think he will catch someday. Because of his unique background, he speaks fluent Spanish, English and French.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Toro-Hernandez told MLB.com. "I know the Astros liked me for quite a few months, but I wasn't expecting to go in the fifth round. I'm pretty excited."

Toro-Hernandez considers himself more of a gap-to-gap hitter than a power hitter. He came up as a shortstop but was moved to third base when he got to Seminole. He didn't know he was going to be drafted until he heard his name called.

"I was with my mom, and she was crying," he said. "Big moment."

Seminole State coach Lloyd Simmons said Toro-Hernandez has power from both sides and has the work ethic to boot. He said he played third because they had a hole to fill at the position, and he has great hands. Former All-Star closer Eric Gagne, who's Canadian and had played for Simmons, gave Simmons the heads up about Toro-Hernandez.

Simmons scouted for the Royals for seven years, and also for the Yankees, and had Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez when he was managing in rookie ball in Kansas City's system. Simmons thinks Toro-Hernandez could be an impact player.

"Just me talking and nobody else, I think he can catch in the big leagues," he said. "He's got great hands, quick feet. He's got that 60 arm [on the 20-80 scouts scale], he's got power on both sides. I've seen a lot of prospects in pro ball. I project him as a big league catcher."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.