Everybody around Abraham Toro played hockey, but the Express infielder never really had a desire to lace up skates.
Despite his chilly surroundings, he decided to focus on baseball. Since being picked by the Astros in the fifth round in 2016, the Canadian has quickly climbed the minor-league system, earning his first Triple-A call up earlier this month.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Toro said. “I’ve gone from being more of a contact hitter to one that can hit for a little more power. That’s what’s helped me go through the levels a little more quickly. The fans (in Round Rock) have been really good and the team has been really good.”
In 14 games with the Express this season, Toro has a .424 average with nine RBIs and seven walks. He played 98 games with Double-A Corpus Christi this season and hit. 306 with 16 home runs and 70 RBIs.
He represented the Hooks in the Double-A All-Star game this season.
“He’s just a polished, pure hitter,” Express manager Mickey Storey said. “He was having a good year in Double-A, and I’ve been impressed with his plate discipline and him being able to be comfortable that something is about to happen. He’s hit at every level and I’m sure he’ll continue to hit here.”
His first two years as a professional, he had a consistent .246 average with about 15 home runs with 115 hits on average. This year, his average has jumped to .322 across Double-A and Triple-A while he already has 16 home runs and 140 total hits.
During the Arizona Fall League, he changed some of his mechanics at the plate.
“I don’t have as high of a leg kick and it made it simple to see the ball better,” Toro said. “Ever since it’s gone really well and I’ve stuck with it. Overall, I can’t be afraid to hit with one or two strikes. I’ve got to wait for a good pitch.“
He said the biggest difference between Double and Triple-A is that the pitchers throw their off-speed pitches for strikes more consistently.
“When I was younger, I Like Vladimir Guerrero, Sr. because he played in Montreal and I went to a lot of Expos game,” Toro said. “He was one of my idols growing up. Being a switch hitter, I like to see guys that can hit for power from both sides like Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor from the Indians.”
Toro’s birthplace, Longueuil, Canada is about 20 minutes from Montreal and Toro grew up speaking English, French and Spanish as his family immigrated from Venezuela early in his life. He’s one of just a couple big-league players from Quebec.
He grew up playing a bunch of different sports and competed in soccer and volleyball at a high level before taking baseball seriously just before he turned 15 years old.
“We always had indoor facilities, and our season would start in late May,” Toro said. “I never really played in the snow.”
One of his coaches from Canada played at Seminole State Junior College in Oklahoma and talked up the school and campus to Toro, who spent a couple of season with the Trojans.
"I didn’t really expect to go in the fifth round,” Toro said. “I was kind of a breakout player. I got more power and my arm got better. Iw as something that was different and it was something that was surprising at the time.”
When he was drafted, he was listed as a third baseman and catcher. He hasn’t thrown on the gear since 2017 and he’s been playing at primarily third base, with some first and second sprinkled in, over the last two seasons.
“I’m a grinder,” Toro said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is or what level I’m at, I’m just going to keep pushing myself to be better.”