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Astros are bullish on Canadian prospect Abraham Toro | The Star

There are two Montreal-born twentysomethings in the Blue Jays’ weekend series with the Houston Astros — Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., of course, and 22-year-old infielder Abraham Toro, a Longueuil, Que., native who has barely been in the big leagues a week.

And this visit to the Rogers Centre came as a bit of a surprise to the 22-year-old Toro, ranked as Houston’s No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

“I didn’t look at the schedule,” he said. “It was actually one of my friends that told me we that we were going to play in Toronto.”

Toro wasn’t in the starting lineup Friday but he’s familiar with the field. His first taste of playing at the Rogers Centre came as a 16-year-old in the Tournament 12, an annual national amateur event.

“It was amazing,” Toro said. “It was like ... you get a chance to play where the big-league players play. I’d never been to a stadium that big at the time so it was wonderful.”

Little did he know that he would be back as a big-leaguer six years later. Toro, selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, showed some power his first two full seasons in the minors and impressed Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who tabbed him as an under-the-radar player who could emerge as major-league candidate this season. Toro didn’t disappoint, hitting .306 with 16 homers in 98 games at Double-A Corpus Christi, then improving to .424 with a 1.112 OPS in 16 games with Triple-A Round Rock.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch didn’t think the Astros would call on Toro this year, given the breadth of talent on the Astros’ roster, but injuries to infielders Carlos Correa and former Jay Aledmys Diaz created a need. Diaz has since returned.

Hinch believes Toro was surprised by the call, but the manager is pleased with how he has handled the transition. The switch-hitter had five hits in 21 at-bats heading into Friday while filling in primarily at third base.

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“Competitive at-bats, he’s drawn a few walks, his defence has been even a little better than advertised, he’s made a lot of good plays,” Hinch said. “Coming onto this team is not easy. He was with us in the spring, which helps the transition a little bit ... I like his demeanour, his confidence and the calmness that he’s shown getting this opportunity.”

Toro believes his big-league jitters have settled after six games for Houston. He doesn’t expect them to reappear in Toronto, despite performing in front of a crowd that will include his mother, brother, sister and grandmother at various points this weekend. It helps that he got his first home run out of the way against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

“The first one’s always the hardest, so now I think I can relax,” he said.

To a point of course. Toro says he is constantly learning. “Just talking to the guys. Even though some of the guys here are veterans, they want to learn. I’m just trying to do the same thing and put that in my regular routine.”

And while Toronto may not exactly be home, it’s close enough this weekend. So too is Tim Hortons, and Toro was anxious to make a visit. “I think I’ll go either tonight or tomorrow.”

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