We have a lot of data with which to analyze Andres Torres. The now 33 year-old OF has bounced around from team to team since starting his career in 1998 with Detroit. In Detroit's minor league system, Torres showed the ability to steal lots of bases (67 in 2000) and hit for good AVG... until he reached AAA. In 2 seasons at AAA, Torres hit a disappointing .266 and .255. He had 2 short stints with the major league team in 2002 and 2003, and disappointed again, hovering around the Mendoza Line.
Torres then moved to the White Sox's farm system in 2004, where he hit 8 HRs, stole 23 bases, and hit .295 in a half-season in AAA. Andres then signed with Texas in 2005, but barely played at all that year. In 2006, he signed with Minnesota. He had another bad year with their AAA affiliate... hitting .236 with only 2 HRs and 19 SBs.
In 2007, Torres went back to Detroit and signed on with the Tigers. They started him in AA, then moved him up to AAA when he was hitting well. This might have been the start of his turnaround... that year he hit 10 HRs, stole 22 bases, and hit .292 between both levels. Yet once again, Torres was on the move - this time to the Chicago Cubs' AAA affiliate. At the age of 30, Torres hit 11 HRs, stole 29 bases, and hit .306 - his best season yet.
Once again, like a nomad on the move, Torres signed with yet another new club in 2009 - the San Francisco Giants. That year, the Giants quickly brought up the 31 year-old to the majors, giving him his first chance since 2003. He responded with 6 HRs and 6 steals while hitting .270 in 152 ABs. This piqued the Giants' interest, as he seemed to be a fit for their club. Last year, Torres was finally given full-time ABs in the majors and responded with 16 HRs, 26 SBs, 84 Runs, 63 RBI, and a .268 AVG... certainly a breakout season.
When Torres slumped through September and October, people pointed to the fact that he was a fluke to begin with… when we have a preconceived notion, we look for things that confirm what we already think (confirmation bias). With his slump overflowing into the playoffs, Bochy benched his lead-off hitter for the 3rd game of the NLCS. When Torres came back, he was on fire. There's a great article on FanGraphs depicting Torres and the confirmation bias which I read after I had started writing about him already. As a former psychology major, I see the danger confirmation bias brings in fantasy baseball. When we have our minds set a certain way, we tend to miss signs that a player we thought was insignificant has actually turned the corner.. or vice versa.
So the question again becomes: Is Andres Torres a fluke? Let's start with his AVG: He has a career 77% contact rate through his limited MLB career. Torres is a bit prone to the strikeout as well, racking up 128 of them in 507 ABs. His AVG in 2009 was .270 and it was .268 last season... this is probably about what you can expect from Torres.
Torres' 16 HRs appear to come out of nowhere when looking at his career statistics, but in reality it isn't really that far-fetched. He had hit 10-11 HRs in the minors previously. Then, Andres hit 6 HRs in 152 ABs in 2009... showing he had that power (though people figured that was a fluke at the time). Players often experience a slight power increase around the age of 31.. perhaps this had something to do with it as well. Regardless, I'd bet on Torres hitting about 14 homers in 500 ABs... he probably only has downside to his 16 jacks last season, but it's still quite useful.
Torres' most marketable skill is his ability to steal bases. He had 26 last year... but he isn't getting any younger either. As a 33 year-old, he might be able to steal around 25 bases for another year or two, but I wouldn't be expecting more than that.
As the lead-off hitter for most of the year in 2010, Torres garnered 84 Runs and 63 RBI. I think you can expect around 85 Runs again this season if he keeps the lead-off role all year. The RBI number looks about right, but with the Giants' anemic offense and pitcher-friendly park.
Overall, I'd put down a line of .270 with 14 HR, 23 SB, 85 Runs, and 60 RBI.... very useful numbers that don't hurt you in any category and are pluses in the SB and Runs categories. I don't think Torres will turn out to be a fluke, but I have a feeling he will be re-proving himself every year until the wheels do fall off.