SOUTH BEND, Ind. - One day it's a timely, late-inning, run-scoring triple to the opposite field. The next it's a lunging stab on a hot line drive in the hole.
The shortstop with the tattoos lining his arms and the mature style of play elicits similar reactions across the baseball community.
Gleyber Torres plays older than his age. He's mature. He has an advanced approach. The youngest player in the Midwest League isn't playing like it.
The 18-year old Torres, South Bend's shortstop, is the youngest player in the league by five months and won't turn 19 until mid-December. Still, the Caracas, Venezuela, native, whom teammates and coaches call "Niño," ranks third in the league with a .349 batting average and 29 hits, while gliding around the left side of the Cubs infield.
"Right now at 18 years, it's no problem to play in the full season," Torres said crisply, though he's still learning English. "The concentration and dedication, it's everything."
Signed by Chicago in July 2013 as a 16-year old and one of the top international signees, Torres' maturity has shined throughout his baseball career. Baseball was always the sweet-swinging youngster's favorite sport since he started as a 4-year old centerfielder, catcher and pitcher. In his early teenage years, Torres connected with trainer Ciro Barrios, who hauled the heralded prospect to various workouts and tryouts in Venezuela. Torres, through South Bend hitting coach Jesus Feliciano, said his interaction with MLB teams was a long process, as clubs would call and want him to work out. Torres even flew to the Dominican Republic for extended workouts. As the attention increased, Torres grew up.
"Thanks to his family, they teach him the way he should," Feliciano said, translating for Torres when asked from where his maturity comes. "As soon as he was 14, as soon as he started getting the tryouts and workouts, he thought he got a lot better by taking things not for granted."
The Cubs, led by scouts Hector Ortega and Julio Figueroa, signed Torres for a reported $1.7 million, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
"Gleyber is really mature and advanced for his age both physically and especially on the mental side of the game," Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said. "He's got great instincts. He's got a natural barrel path right to the baseball, kind of an inside-out swing. He's really good at barreling up balls, especially to the opposite field."
Torres has impressed through the first chunk of his first season in full-season ball. But as a 17-year old, Torres batted .279 in 43 games with Rookie League Mesa. In seven games with Short-Season Boise in 2014, the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder cracked 11 hits (two doubles, three triples and one home run), bringing his combined average to .297-the third-best in the Cubs organization.
"He's able to make these adjustments, not just physically but mentally. It's a lot of tough things that you've gotta go through at the professional level," said South Bend manager Jimmy Gonzalez, who also tutored Torres in the AZL. "Most 17-year olds would not make the adjustments that he made."
Chicago decided Torres was ready for Low-A this season.
"At a young age, I think he's going to really impress here in the Midwest League," Epstein said before South Bend's season opener.
Torres said hard work has been the key to his quick start. He also credited South Bend's older players for his success and mentioned other infielders in the organization - Javier Baez (currently in Triple-A) and Starlin Castro (Chicago's starting shortstop) - as players he has enjoyed watching and learning from.
And now after a few years in the United States, Torres is growing increasingly comfortable.
"The good thing about being in the states is he's feeling more comfortable, visiting new cities he's never been to, and he thanks baseball for that," Feliciano said, translating for Torres.
The teenage transition to a new country isn't completely seamless, of course.
"My family. Every day," Torres said, when asked what he misses most about his home country. "The food is normal, no problem. My family, I miss you every day."
And every day, Torres said, he puts it in his mind that he wants to be a better ballplayer. Baseball America tabs Torres as Chicago's eighth-best prospect, while ESPN slots the shortstop fifth in a stacked organization.
"He's a smart, savvy player for his age with very advanced instincts, a knack for hitting and control of the strike zone," Baseball America's Ben Badler recently wrote of Torres.
But Torres said he's not focused on the glut of stars in Chicago's system. He loves playing shortstop and said he believes he has the ability to stay at the position as he progresses toward the majors.
"The guy puts in his work," Gonzalez said. "He doesn't have to be asked to work. He'll request some work. That's what the Cubs want."